A general term meaning the cessation of breathing. Apnoea is a medical emergency: death soon follows if breathing is not quickly restored (see APPENDIX 1: BASIC FIRST AID). Apnoea may be caused by an obstruction to the airway, for example by the tongue during general ANAESTHESIA, or by a disturbance of the mechanisms that control breathing. Rapid heavy breathing reduces the blood levels of carbon dioxide and can lead to a brief period of apnoea.
Neonatal apnoeic attacks may represent a serious emergency, being caused by prematurity, milk aspiration, heart failure, infection, HYPOXIA, HYPOGLYCAEMIA or HYPOCALCAEMIA. If stimulation of the baby does not immediately restore breathing, then bag-and-mask ventilation should be used.