What is Bradypnea?

When the breathing rate of a person becomes less than twelve breaths per minute, the condition is acknowledged as bradpynea. It can happen due to various undiagnosed causes, or can even during one’s normal sleeping cycle. However, if it tends to occur when someone is still awake, it can potentially indicate specific conditions that are interfering with the breathing process.

Age: Ideal respiratory rate, i.e., BPM or breaths per minute

    • ➢ 1-3: 30-60
    • ➢ 3-6: 24-40
    • ➢-12:18-30
    • ➢-18:12-16
    • ➢-50:<12
    • ➢50+:<13

Causes of Bradypnea

Typically, the breathing pattern is regulated by the human brain while someone is not aware of the total number of breaths that person takes. It is not to be confused with apnea (when the breathing ceases completely) or with dyspnea, (shortness of breath or labored breathing). This medical condition affects around two hundred thousand persons per year in the west.

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Effect of narcotics
  • Brain diseases, tumors or blood clots
  • Cardiac problems
  • Hypertension
  • Myocarditis
  • Old age
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Nicotine usage
  • Inflammatory diseases like lupus
  • Hepatic failure
  • Medications including drugs prescribed for hypertension and  heart rhythm disorders

Symptoms of Bradypnea

➢ Primary

  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Near-fainting or faint fits
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Chest pains or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness
  • Abnormally low rate of breathing
  • Impaired memory of confusion
  • Experiencing exhaustion easily during any physical activity
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Hepatic failure
  • Increase in intracranial pressure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Dandy-Walker Syndrome

➢ Secondary, i.e., other associative signs

  • Opioids may also trigger sleep problems, decreased alertness, constipation, and itching
  • Other signs of hypothyroidism can include dry skin, lethargy, and hair loss
  • Sodium azide poisoning may result in various symptoms like headache, rashes, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and vomiting
  • Carbon monoxide exposure can trigger headache, cardiovascular toxicity, dizziness, coma, and breathing failure

Diagnosis of Bradypnea

Respiration Rate

As the respiration rate differs from one person to the other, this medical condition is primarily determined by calculating the breathing rate proportionate with the subject’s age and that person’s complete health status.

Typically, the rate of respiration is measured as how many times a person has breathed for an interval of a minute. The number of a person’s breaths is dependent on each elevation of the subject’s chest with the spontaneous process of respiration.

Physical Examination

Bradypnea can be diagnosed by performing a physical examination on the patient. Medical history is also analyzed for detecting the underlying causative condition. An electrocardiogram or ECG can also be performed for checking the normal functions and rhythm of the heart.

Other tests

The doctor also performs other blood tests for determining the undiagnosed reason that may be associated with this disorder such as electrolytic imbalance, hypothyroidism, or any infection. If sleep apnea happens to be linked with bradypnea, then various tests are performed for monitoring the sleeping cycle of the sufferer.

Risk factors

  • Hypertension
  • Age
  • Nicotine usage
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Cardiac problems
  • Recreational drug abuse
  • Psychological factors like anxiety, tension, or stress

Complications of Bradypnea

A sharp drop in the breathing rate or an abnormally slow breathing may severely affect or reduce alveolar ventilation and result in the following repercussions.

  • Hypoxemia: The oxygen does not get adequately delivered to the bloodstream
  • Hypercapnia: The volume of carbon dioxide increases in the blood
  • Respiratory acidosis: An imbalance in the acid-base level causing alveolar hypoventilation

If bradypnea is critical enough for inducing symptoms like reduced heartbeat, it can further cause the following complications:

  • Frequent incidences of fainting
  • Cardiac arrest or sudden death
  • Heart unable to pump adequate blood or even cardiac failure

People experiencing bradypnea may typically suffer from a compromised respiratory system leading to damage or dysfunction. A weakened respiratory system accompanied by bradypnea is potentially fatal, and can possibly cause significant damage to the other vitals of the body.

Preventions of Bradypnea

  • Maintaining an ideal body weight
  • Quitting nicotine usage
  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Regular Exercise and a healthy diet
  • Avoiding recreational drugs
  • Regulating alcohol consumption
  • Periodic checkups
  • Controlling stress

Treatments for Bradypnea

  • Artificial Respiration: If required to be treated on an urgent basis, bradypnea can be managed by giving artificial respiration, which provides ample amount of oxygen.
  • Other Procedures: Apart from this, other treatment procedures involve surgery or altering risky intracranial pressure. Many patients are suggested rehabilitation programs for effectively managing addiction issues.
  • Treating Pre-existing conditions: If the person already has pre-existing conditions like brain tumor, kidney failure, or liver failure, then these diseases need be managed in the beginning, i.e., prior to treating bradypnea. At times, the medical complications may also be cured by reducing the medication.
  • Pacemaker: Sometimes, a pacemaker is also implanted underneath the collarbone for governing the breathing rate and supervising the heartbeat. Surgery is the last resort for bradypnea and it is done only in complex cases when the patient’s intracranial pressure is found to be extremely elevated.

The line of treatment is primarily dependent on the health status, underlying causative condition, and the age of the patient. As soon as the rate of respiration is corrected appropriately, the underlying cause requires identification and treatment.

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