Is the infant car seat challenge useful? A pilot study in a simulated moving vehicle

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Background and objective

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preterm infants complete a predischarge ‘car seat challenge’ observation for cardiorespiratory compromise while in a car seat. This static challenge does not consider the more upright position in a car or the vibration of the seat when the car is moving. This pilot study was designed to assess the cardiorespiratory effects of vibration, mimicking the effect of being in a moving car, on preterm and term infants.


A simulator was designed to reproduce vertical vibration similar to that in a rear-facing car seat at 30 mph. 19 healthy newborn term and 21 preterm infants, ready for hospital discharge, underwent cardiorespiratory measurements while lying flat in a cot (baseline), static in the seat (30°), simulator (40°) and during motion (vibration 40°).


Median test age was 13 days (range 1–65 days) and median weight was 2.5 kg (IQR: 2.1–3.1 kg).


Compared with baseline observations, only the total number of desaturations was significantly increased when infants were placed at 30° (p=0.03). At 40°, or with vibration, respiratory and heart rates increased and oxygen saturation decreased significantly. Profound desaturations <85% significantly increased during motion, regardless of gestational age.


This is the first study to assess the effect of motion on infants seated in a car safety seat. Term and preterm infants showed significant signs of potentially adverse cardiorespiratory effects in the upright position at 40°, particularly with simulated motion, not identified in the standard challenge. A larger study is required to investigate the significance of these results.

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