Bradypnea – Overview and Treatment

Bradypnea, simply means slow breathing, and the cause can be a wide range of medical conditions like brain disorders, thyroid disorders, and heart problems. Usually, a healthy individual aged between 12 and 50, breathes around 12 to 20 times in one minute. When the breathing rate drops alarmingly, the condition is known as Bradypnea; scientifically it is said that when the breathing rate falls below 12 breaths every minute, it is Bradypnea.

Infants up to the age of 1 year take around 30 to 60 breaths in every minute; and when the rate gets unusually slow, it indicates some underlying medical condition. The breathing process in the patient will seem to be stressful and forced. The respiratory range per minute stating it to be Bradypnea differs with age group, to understand it better, a table is given below –


Age group              Bradypnea Range

                               (breaths per minute)

0-3                                   less than 30

1-3                                   less than 25

3-12                                less than 20

12-50                             less than 12

50 and above               less than 13

Symptoms of Bradypnea

The patients feel tired persistently and suffer from impaired breathing, also called breathlessness. Eventually, the patient also gets lethargic, weak and simple day-to-day activities makes him exhausted easily. Weakness, dizziness, chest discomfort, and getting faint fits are the other symptoms of low breathing rate.

Causes of Bradypnea

Certain inflammatory conditions like lupus and rheumatoid fever can lead to Bradypnea and the other causes are enlisted below –


This is a common cause, when the thyroid gland located in the neck produces less amounts of thyroid hormones. This affects various body functions like metabolism and also disrupts normal breathing frequency.

Sleep Apnea

People suffering from this disorder experiences reduced breathing rate. In fact, recurrent episodes of bradypnea can occur. During sleep, the muscles of the airway relax and then collapses suddenly causing pause in breathing.

Effect of Narcotics

These pills often bring about mood-altering effects and induce a euphoric feeling. Affecting the nervous system adversely, these drugs slow down the brain performance. Eventually, the respiratory center (RC) located at the base of the brain also gets slower in functioning and reduces the respiratory rate. Similarly, alcohol can cause slowness in breathing rate.

Certain Brain Diseases

If there are clots and tumour in the brain, it can affect the normal functioning of the brain and thereby decrease the oxygen supply to the cerebral cortex and medulla oblongata that controls the respiratory center. Thus, brain disorders can cause bradypnea.

Heart Problems

Lower heart rate can also lead to the development of bradypnea. When the pumping activity of the heart gets hindered, the breathing rate gets lowered. The lungs and heart are connected by pulmonary arteries and veins. Thus, heart troubles can lead to breathing problems.

There are many more causes like Hemochromatosis, Electrolyte Imbalance etc.

Bradypnea Treatment

Urgent treatment for bradypnea calls for individual supplemental oxygen. Apart from this, other treatment options include everything from surgery to the correction of intracranial pressure, many might need to undergo rehab program to correct addiction problems.

If there are medical conditions like brain tumour or kidney failure as causes, the doctor will treat those conditions first. Sometimes, the problem can also be cured by lowering medicine doses.  In brief, treatment of this disorder greatly depends on the cause.