A home apnea monitor is a portable machine used to monitor a baby's heartbeat and breathing after coming home from the hospital.
When the baby has a heart rate or breathing rate that is below the limits set on the monitor, an alarm goes off. The monitor is smaller and less complex than those used in the hospital.
WHY IS A HOME MONITOR USED?
A home monitor can be used to monitor babies who still have minor problems with breathing and heart rate. However, studies have not been able to show any benefit for babies on home monitors, so the monitors are not commonly used anymore. There may be special situations where one may be necessary, but most babies do not use home apnea monitors.
Those who may be sent home with such a machine include infants who have persistent apnea or severe reflux, a family history of SIDS, or who need home oxygen or a breathing machine.
HOW IS A MONITOR PLACED?
Stick-on patches (electrodes) or a belt will be attached to the baby’s chest or stomach. A home nursing company usually teaches parents how to use the monitor, and provides support for the monitor as well. The length of time the monitor is needed depends on how many real alarms go off. The average length of home monitoring is about 2 - 3 months.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A MONITOR?
Monitors are electrical instruments that can fail when the power is out, or if there is some electrical problem. There is no risk to the baby in these cases. There may be some skin irritation from the stick-on electrodes, but this is usually mild.
Silvestri JM. Indications for home apnea monitoring (or not). Clin Perinatol. 2009;36:87-99.
Hunt CE, Hauck FR. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 367.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.