Classifying Apnea of Prematurity by Transcutaneous Electromyography of the Diaphragm

Juliette V. Kraaijenga, Gerard J. Hutten, Cornelia G. De Waal, Frans H. De Jongh, Wes Onland, Anton H. Van Kaam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Treatment of apnea is highly dependent on the type of apnea. Chest impedance (CI) has inaccuracies in monitoring respiration, which compromises accurate apnea classification. Electrical activity of the diaphragm measured by transcutaneous electromyography (EMG) is feasible in preterm infants and might improve the accuracy of apnea classification. Objectives: To compare the accuracy of apnea classification based on diaphragmatic EMG (dEMG) and CI tracings in preterm infants. Methods: Fifteen cases of central apnea, 5 of obstructive apnea, and 10 of mixed apnea were selected from recordings containing synchronized continuous tracings of respiratory inductive plethysmography (RIP), airway flow, heart rate (HR), oxygen saturation (SpO2), and breathing activity measured by dEMG and CI. Twenty-two assessors (neonatologists, pediatricians-in-training, and nurses) classified each apnea twice; once based on dEMG, HR, and SpO2 tracings, and once based on CI, HR, and SpO2. The assessors were blinded to the type of respiratory tracing (dEMG or CI) and to the RIP and flow tracings. Results: In total 1,320 assessments were performed, and in 71.1% the apnea was classified correctly. Subgroup analysis based on respiratory tracing showed that 74.8% of the dEMG tracings were classified correctly compared to 67.3% of the CI tracings (p < 0.001). This improved apnea classification based on dEMG was present for central (86.7 vs. 80.3%, p < 0.02) and obstructive (56.4 vs. 32.7%, p < 0.001) apnea. The improved apnea classification based on dEMG tracing was independent of the type of assessor. Conclusion: Transcutaneous dEMG improves the accuracy of apnea classification when compared to CI in preterm infants, making this technique a promising candidate for future monitoring systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-145
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Central apnea
  • Chest impedance
  • Electromyography
  • Monitoring
  • Obstructive apnea


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