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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2010 Apr 30;171(2):171-4. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2010.03.015. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

Chemosensitivity recovery in Ondine's curse syndrome under treatment with desogestrel.

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Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Service Central d'Explorations Fonctionnelles Respiratoires, F-75013 Paris, France.


Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), or Ondine's curse syndrome, is a rare genetic disorder associated with mutations of the PHOX2B gene. It is characterized by sleep-related life-threatening hypoventilation that requires mechanical ventilation. The ventilatory response to hypercapnia and hypoxia is absent or dramatically reduced. Spontaneous or pharmacologically induced recovery has never been reported. We have fortuitously observed a case of CO(2)-chemosensitivity recovery in a woman with CCHS who took a progestin contraceptive - desogestrel. We hypothesized that the desogestrel could be responsible for this effect. We tested this hypothesis in a second adult patient. Her lack of CO(2)-chemosensitivity was documented 5 months before she was prescribed desogestrel. Three weeks after initiation of the treatment she exhibited a ventilatory and sensory response to hypercapnia. This response persisted 3 weeks later. This is the first documented case of pharmacologically restored chemosensitivity in CCHS. It suggests that a very potent progestin such as desogestrel could unveil latent chemosensitive neural circuits.

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