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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005 Nov 15;149(1-3):343-53.

The role of respiratory control disorders in SIDS.

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Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid, Campus Box 8208, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Although sudden death in infants resulting from cardiac arrhythmias are well documented these appear to account for no more than 5-10% of SIDS cases. Sudden respiratory failure currently is viewed as the most likely cause of death in the remainder. Accidental asphyxiation appears to have a causal role in less then 50% of deaths diagnosed as SIDS. The rest are most likely do to some form of acute respiratory failure. Although failure of autoresuscitation or failure to arouse from sleep likely contribute to the final sequence of events leading to at least some SIDS deaths, these cannot be regarded as causes of the primary respiratory failure initiating the fatal sequence. Past and current studies provide strong circumstantial evidence that obstructive sleep apnea and/or apnea of prematurity likely account for respiratory failure leading to SIDS in some or many deaths. In drawing conclusions it is well to recognize that mechanisms leading to death in SIDS are heterogeneous and therefore there is room for several plausible theories for respiratory or circulatory abnormalities contributing to SIDS.

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