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Diseases » Apnea » Introduction


Apnea: Introduction

Apnea is a cessation or pause in breathing. Very short episodes of apnea can be normal, and a person can induce voluntary, short-term apnea by holding one's breath. However, apnea can also be a symptom of a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. This type of apneas is also called respiratory arrest.

Apnea can occur in any age group or population. Apnea can result from neurological disorders, infection, toxicity, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction and other abnormal processes.

Apnea can be due to obstructive sleep apnea and apnea of prematurity. Apnea can occur in severe cases of pneumothorax, pneumonia acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, COPD, pulmonary embolism and pulmonary edema.

In addition to the respiratory system, apnea can occur as a symptom of diseases, disorders and conditions of other body systems. For example, in the cardiovascular system, apnea can be a symptom of end-stage congestive heart failure or a severe heart attack.

In the nervous system, apnea can be a symptom of a neuromuscular disorder, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, or a drug overdone, such as a narcotic overdose. Apnea can also result from a serious anaphylactic reaction that leads to anaphylactic shock.

Apnea can accompany end-stage shock. Apnea can also be due to a variety of traumatic causes, such as chest trauma that results in a collapsed lung or hemopneumothorax.

Depending on the cause, apnea can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when apnea occurs when a person voluntary holds the breath. Apnea can also be chronic and happen in relatively short episodes over a long period of time, such as when it is due to sleep apnea. Apnea can also occur in sudden, severe episodes, such as apnea that happens with apnea of prematurity, airway obstruction (choking) or strangulation. For more details about causes, see causes of apnea.

Apnea often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms that can occur just before or with apnea include snoring, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, cyanosis, tachypnea, loss of pulse and (rapid breathing).

Complications of apnea can include low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the body. This is called respiratory acidosis. If not treated immediately, this leads to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, irreversible damage to the major organs of the body, and death.

Apnea is generally immediately diagnosed upon an examination, which reveals an absence of respiration. CPR and advanced life support measures are started immediately. This can include artificial respiration by mouth or by manually pumping oxygen into the airway by using a special bag connected to a face mask that is placed over the mouth and nose.

If spontaneous breathing does not begin promptly, a special tube is placed down the throat and airway (intubation). This tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator that continues to pump oxygen into the lungs as other advanced life support measures are continued.

If apnea is due to a foreign body, it is removed in an emergency procedure. Intubation and mechanical ventilation may still need to be performed to treat the apnea. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of apnea.

Diagnosing the underlying cause of apnea begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that the lungs make. Certain lung sounds point to some underlying causes of apnea. For example, wheezing may indicate asthma, and a bubbling sound may point to congestive heart failure or pneumonia.

A noninvasive test called a pulse oximetry is generally performed. This involves clipping a painless device to the fingertip, which can measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as a number of other important markers of effective breathing. This includes diagnosing respiratory acidosis.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, pulmonary function test, EKG, and imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans, and MRI.

obstructive sleep apnea is often diagnosed in a sleep center with tests called sleep studies.

A diagnosis of intermittent episodes of apnea and its cause can easily be delayed or missed. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of apnea. ...more »

Apnea: Cessation of breathing. Apnea can be caused by neurological diseases, strangulation, drugs and airway obstruction. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Apnea is available below.

Apnea: Treatments

Treatment plans for apnea are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, returns normal spontaneous breathing and decreases the risk of developing serious complications, such as respiratory acidosis ...more treatments »

Apnea: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing apnea and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed people who experience most types of apnea will lose consciousness and cannot help themselves and seek care. They also may not be found quickly. In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, people are often completely unaware that have periods of apnea while they sleep. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Apnea

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Apnea:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Apnea?

Apnea: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Apnea.

Apnea: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Apnea:

Causes of Apnea

Read more about causes of Apnea.

More information about causes of Apnea:

Apnea: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Apnea

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Apnea: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Apnea

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Apnea:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Apnea, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Apnea: Animations

Research about Apnea

Visit our research pages for current research about Apnea treatments.

Clinical Trials for Apnea

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Apnea include:

Apnea: Broader Related Topics

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Apnea, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Definitions of Apnea:

Transient cessation of respiration - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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