Intermittent hypoxemia (IH), episodic drops in hemoglobin oxygen saturation, is a common problem in preterm infants. The extent of IH is not apparent clinically because accurately documenting cardiorespiratory events for day-to-day patient care management is challenging. Multiple factors place preterm infants at high risk for increased IH. These factors include respiratory immaturity, lung disease, and anemia. Brief episodes of oxygen desaturation may seem clinically insignificant; however, these events may have a cumulative effect on neonatal outcomes. There is mounting evidence from both animal models and clinical studies suggesting that IH is associated with injury and poor outcomes such as increased inflammation, impaired growth, retinopathy of prematurity, and neurodevelopmental impairment. In this article, the author reviews the etiology and consequences of IH in preterm infants.

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