Medical Definition of Periodic breathing

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Periodic breathing: Clusters of breaths separated by intervals of apnea (no breathing) or near-apnea. As opposed to normal breathing which is usually regular.

Periodic breathing was originally thought to arise from serious neurologic or cardiovascular disease and therefore to carry a poor outlook. It is now known that periodic breathing also tends to occur during sleep, it can occur in healthy persons, and the apnea in periodic breathing is usually central (without respiratory movements) rather than obstructive (caused by upper-airway blockage).

Periodic breathing during sleep occurs typically in patients with congestive heart failure.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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