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Bradypnea - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

Updated on August 21, 2014

What is Bradypnea?

Bradypnea is defined as an unusually slow breathing rate and below the range of the normal breathing rate. At rest or during sleep, breathing normally slows down as the body normally slows down while at rest and without activities. Slow breathing becomes abnormal when an individual is not at rest but has a slow rate of breathing even when the body is active.

Bradypnea involves the respiratory system and its effect is significant to the health status of an individual. Bradypnea is the slow rate of breathing while tachypnea is the opposite and both of which greatly affects the health and wellness and both may signify an existing underlying condition that influenced the rate of breathing. The normal range of respiratory rate is dependent on the age and the overall health status of an individual. The reduction in the respiratory rate is also dependent on the etiology and the concurrent disease.

The respiratory system is a multifaceted system that is dependent on various functions of different body parts. Any force whether external or internal that affects the human body can also affect the respiratory system and bring disruption to its normal process. The breathing process is controlled by the autonomic nervous system which can be found deep in the brain while the expansion of the lungs to facilitate breathing is initiated by the respiratory muscles.


Bradypnea or the reduction in the normal rate of breathing can affect multiple system of the body. The effect can be mild or it can be so severe and potentially life-threatening. It is therefore essential to take notice of its signs and symptoms and is also necessary medical attention to correct the breathing and identify the cause subsequently prompt treatment.

The onset of Bradypnea can affect the brain as a result of lack in oxygen supply. Multiple body system can also get affected with the insufficiency in oxygen supply. In the event of Bradypnea, the signs and symptoms should be carefully observed and these symptoms include the following:

  • Episode of chest pain
  • Syncope or episode of near-fainting or fainting
  • Extreme and easy tiredness from routine activities
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath

A severe reduction in the rate of breathing or an extremely slow breathing may considerably affect or reduce the alveolar ventilation and may result in the following:

  • Hypoxemia or a condition defined as an inadequacy in the supply of oxygen in the blood
  • Hypercapnia or a state where there is an excessive level of carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Respiratory acidosis is a condition characterized by an imbalance in the level of acid-base resulting alveolar hypoventilation

Individuals suffering from Bradypnea may also develop a compromised respiratory system leading to its damage or dysfunction. Older adults with bodies wearing down as part of the normal aging process and individuals with chronic lung conditions and other conditions involving the nervous system are more prone to suffering from a compromised respiratory system. These conditions associated with Bradypnea are potentially life-threatening and potential for damages in other organs of the body as a result of oxygen insufficiency or deprivation resulting from the interruption in the pumping action of the heart.


An interruption in the pumping action of the heart can result to Bradypnea. Numerous factors and several medical conditions influence the incidence of Bradypnea and these include the following:

  • Aging factor greatly influences the onset of Bradypnea which is due to the degeneration of the tissues of the heart as part of the normal aging process.
  • Heart attack and other cardiovascular problems can cause damage to the tissue of the heart which can affect the pumping action of the heart subsequently a reduction in the rate of breathing.
  • Increased blood pressure or hypertension also influences the rate of breathing.
  • Myocarditis or an infection in the tissue of the heart.
  • Open heart surgery with its complication can also reduce the rate of breathing.
  • Congenital heart defect is also implicated in the incidence of Bradypnea.
  • Disruption in breathing during sleep or the obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are also implicated in Bradypnea.
  • Rheumatic fever, lupus and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Imbalance in the electrolyte or the substance essential for the conduction of electrical impulses can reduce the rate of breathing.
  • Underactive thyroid gland and any other disorders involving the thyroid affects the respiration rate.
  • Hemochromatosis or the condition of iron buildup in the organ of the body.
  • Medications indicated for the treatment of psychosis, high blood pressure and other disorders involving the heart rhythm are also triggers of Bradypnea.
  • Tumor growth in the brain or the incidence of intracranial pressure affecting the area of the brain responsible for the regulation of breathing.
  • Sedative drugs and other substances with sedative effect also reduces the rate of respiration as sedation is the general etiology of Bradypnea.


It is necessary to identify the onset of Bradypnea and determine the underlying condition that causes the incidence. The respiration rate of an individual varies from one person to another and what is normal for one may not be normal to another. The rate by which Bradypnea is determined depends on the age of the individual and the overall health status.

The respiratory rate is characterized by the total number of breaths within a minute or 60 seconds. The measurement of breath taken is counted while an individual is at rest. The number of breath is counted based on every rise of the chest during the process of respiration.

The diagnosis of Bradypnea can be taken through physical examination with respiratory count included. Medical history is also taken to determine the underlying cause of the condition. An electrocardiogram may be utilized to assess the function and rhythm of the heart.


The aim of treatment of Bradypnea is to provide patient with sufficient oxygen supply to prevent further complication and other irreversible damages that can result from oxygen insufficiency.

The initial treatment usually involves the provision of oxygen to the patient through artificial respiration. The underlying cause of Bradypnea is later given once the condition of the patient is stabilized. The treatment however will depend on the underlying condition, age and the overall health status of the patient.


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