Bradycardia In Newborns: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Does your little one grasp for air and turn blue frequently? Do you know that your baby could be suffering from bradycardia? Bradycardia is defined as a heart rate that is below the lowest normal value for a particular age. Learn about the causes of bradycardia in newborns, diagnosis and treatment.

About Bradycardia in Newborns:

Bradycardia in newborn is characterized by slowing down of the heart rate to below 100 beats per minute. Newborns, especially premature babies, commonly suffer from bradycardia, which can be accompanied with interruption in breathing. These pauses are termed as apnea. Such pauses in breathing mechanism last for a few seconds making the baby gasp for air. The lack of oxygen during this period generally makes the baby turn pale or blue. One of the main causes of bradycardia is hypoxia and there are many other triggering factors. Bradycardia is treated with medicines, which stimulate breathing and regularize heart beats. Pediatric bradycardia generally manifests as junctional bradycardia, sinus bradycardia, or atrioventricular block.

Bradycardia in Newborns

What Causes Bradycardia in Newborns?

Bradycardia in newborns can be triggered by intrinsic dysfunction of or damage to the conduction system of the heart, or by extrinsic factors influencing normal heart. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can impact any area of the heart’s conduction system.

One of the main causes of bradycardia is hypoxia. There are several other triggers like hypothermia, infections, hypovolemia, brain injury, that too can act as cause of bradycardia in newborns.

Generally, newborn babies and infants having bradycardia also tend to have apnea as well. This condition is more common in premature babies, although this is not the only factor for this condition. Some of the other causes of bradycardia in newborns can be conditions like low blood sugar, infection, insufficient oxygen in the body, etc.

In preterm, the main causes of bradycardia in newborns include the following,

Firstly, in premature babies, the nervous system is not completely developed and so the region in the brain that controls respiration does not function fully. Thus the baby may experience pauses when breathing or the breathing may be shallow.

Babies who have low birth weight usually less then 5 pounds have some amount of apnea which can cause bradycardia.

In case of full term babies, some of the common causes of bradycardia in newborns are decreased body temperature, decreased blood sugar levels, serious infections, gastric reflux, obstruction in airway passage, enterocolitis, lung collapse, hole in the heart, increased intracranial pressure and drug addiction by expecting mothers. Further, even fluid accumulation in the brain, bleeding inside the brain due to injury and seizures can sometimes cause bradycardia in full-term babies.

How is Bradycardia in Newborns Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of bradycardia in newborns is done by clinical evaluation and monitoring. A newborn with a persistent heart rate of less than 90 beat per minute needs to be assessed for potential bradycardia. The doctor would need to enquire about the medical history of the child which even includes aspects like any illnesses suffered and the drugs taken by their mother during pregnancy, details of labor period etc.

They would also need to conduct an ECG test and keep the patient under 24-hour of monitoring. These details and results of examination help to make a diagnosis of bradycardia in newborns. Early diagnosis and appropriate management play in vital role in preventing sudden fatality in many cases.

What is the Treatment of Bradycardia in Newborns?

Treatment of bradycardia in newborns and eventual prognosis greatly depends upon the underlying cause. This illness is treated through administration of drugs like caffeine and theophylline which help to stimulate breathing and correct the heart rate. Along with medication, gently stroking the infant’s back and feet can also help to stimulate breathing. Mechanical ventilation using a breathing machine or CPAP may also be required to maintain correct the heart rate to treat apnea and aid the treatment of bradycardia in newborns.


Early diagnosis and treatment of bradycardia in newborns is essential to prevent long term damage, developmental problems and fatality in infants. While the causes of bradycardia in newborns are many, with proper approach, the exact cause can be detected and treated in time. These children should be given appropriate care to ensure that they grow up to live a normal, healthy and happy life.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 17, 2021

Recent Posts

Related Posts