An infant undergoes dramatic developmental changes in heart and blood pressure control systems during its first six months of life. This development affects the ability to compensate for a drop in blood pressure (hypotension) or reduced blood oxygen levels (hypoxaemia).
Around 10% of all infants are born preterm (before 37 weeks of completed gestation). Premature infants are at an increased risk of unstable respiratory control which can lead to pauses in breathing or apnoea, particularly during sleep. These repetitive episodes of hypoxaemia may be associated with poorer developmental outcomes. Scientists in The Ritchie Centre are using new techniques to examine the development of cardio-respiratory control to identify new targets for treatment with the aim of improving outcomes for infants born preterm.