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Reoccuring infant bradycardia

  My six month old son is suffering from some form of bradycardia, but I am unsure what exactly it is.  His has been on an apnea monitor since birth, but lately it has been reading slow heart instead of the usual apnea.  About 2 months ago his apneaic spells quit, but a new kind of spell replaced it.  He started with one bradycardia spell which lasted on and off for about and hour and a half, then he went on just fine for a week or so.  But this bradycardia came back after a week, stronger and lasting a little bit longer than before.  And it has continued this cycle of week breaks for the past 2 months.  Now I am really concerned for my child's safety.  Just these past three days he has had two major episodes, each lasting for 5 1/2 hours apiece, with his pulse staying at around 50 for the entire period.  And for one of these most recent episodes he was awake for the entire duration of it.  The doctor's have done every test that is in my mind imaginable.  They have done and EKG and had him on observation at the hospital, but they never have him there at the times these episodes occur.  I am so scared and the doctors see me just as a hypocondriac (because they only occur when he is at home).  Could you please give me some ideas on what is possible going on, and tell me where I can get some information on this type of bradycardia.
  Thank you for any help you can give.
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Avatar universal

Dear Sarah, thank you for your question.  I've consulted with the expert pediatric
cardiologists here and I think I have some information that will help you.  Apnea
monitors are notoriously unreliable at determining the heart rate; they're
designed primarily to measure the respiratory rate.  Thus, if the apnea monitor
is reading a low heart rate for your son, it could be wrong.  From what you
write, it sounds like he's doing well during the "bradycardic" episodes picked
up by the apnea monitor which may indicate that the slow heart rates are just
an artifact of the monitoring device.  The normal approach to determine this is
to hospitalize an infant and monitor the heart rhythm as was done in your son's case.
An alternative is to have the infant wear a portable heart monitor called a Holter
monitor at home.  The monitor has an alarm that the parents can activate if they
suspect symptoms are developing from a slow heart rate and that can be correlated
with the heart rate recorded by the monitor.  I understand your concerns about your
child and I think a Holter monitor might be the answer.  If his heart rate is
normal on such a monitor, your concerns should be alleviated.  I suggest that
you speak with your son's pediatricians and ask them for their thoughts.  I
couldn't find any information to point you to regarding infant bradycardia, but
it seems most appropriate to determine whether he truly has bradycardia first.
I hope you find this information useful.
Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Specific
diagnoses and therapies can only be provided by your physician.

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