Bradypnea: Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Bradypnea refers to the abnormally slow breathing rate, which varies in older adults and young children.

It is defined as having less than 12 breaths per minute, manifested in people between 12 and 50 years of age.

When a patient has bradypnea, it is common that they may not be receiving enough oxygen , due to an underlying medical problem that must be addressed. Specialized health care personnel can begin the diagnostic process to determine why a patient is breathing more slowly than usual.

Causes of Bradipnea

One of the reasons for a patient to be breathing slowly is because he or she is asleep. It is normal when people are sleeping, since the body as a whole slows down. However, a person who is awake with a slower respiratory rate is usually a sign of a problem unless the person is doing breathing exercises that may involve deceleration and deepening of the breaths.

A common cause of bradypnea is sedation. Sedative medications can decrease the respiratory rate, as can substances such as alcohol, which can have a depressive effect on the respiratory system. People who abuse opioids and opioids can also develop bradypnea. Another cause could be a tumor in the brain or high intracranial pressure that affects the areas of the same, involved in the regulation of respiration. Certain metabolic disorders may also be involved with bradypnea.

Patients may also develop respiratory decompensation , where the respiratory system is damaged or endangered and does not function as effectively as it should. This is common in older adults, as their bodies wear out; It can also occur in people with chronic lung conditions and conditions that affect the nervous system. Another cause of bradypnea is kidney failure.

All of these causes can be dangerous, not only because they limit the oxygen supply by decreasing breathing, but also because they can endanger other organ systems in the body.


The immediate treatment for bradypnea may involve giving an oxygen supplement to the patient. In the long term, a health professional has to figure out why the patient is breathing slowly and dealing with it. Treatments can include everything from surgery to treat high intracranial pressure to a stay in a rehabilitation program for a patient with addiction problems. If a patient has a condition that increases the risk of bradypnea, such as kidney failure or a brain tumor, caregivers are advised to carefully monitor the patient for signs of slow and difficult breathing.