For infants, bradycardia is defined as a heart rate of less than 100 beats per minute. (Normal is around 120-160 beats per minute.) Premature babies are more likely than full-term babies to have apnea and bradycardia spells; their cause is not clearly understood.
Some researchers think the spells are related to centers inside the brain that regulate breathing and that may not be fully developed. Touching the baby gently or rocking the incubator slightly will almost always get the baby to start breathing again, which increases the heart rate.
Medications (theophylline or caffeine) can be used to treat these spells in babies if necessary. NICU standard practice is to electronically monitor the heart and lungs for this reason.
This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Bradycardia" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.