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J Pediatr. 1994 Aug;125(2):218-24.

Polysomnographic characteristics of patients with Rett syndrome.

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Eudowood Division of Pediatric Respiratory Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.


During wakefulness, patients with Rett syndrome have disordered breathing. To understand further this ventilatory control disorder, we performed polysomnography in 30 patients with Rett syndrome and 30 control subjects (female subjects with primary snoring). The median age was 7 years (range, 1 to 32 years) for Rett syndrome and 6 years (range, 1 to 17 years) for control subjects. During periods of wakefulness, 67% of patients with Rett syndrome had the characteristic pattern of disordered breathing (i.e., episodes of hyperventilation followed by central apnea and desaturation). No such events occurred during sleep. Sleep efficiency and sleep architecture were similar for both groups. During sleep, there was no difference in duration of periodic breathing, number of episodes of central apnea with desaturation, or number of episodes of obstructive apnea or end-tidal carbon dioxide tension between the two groups. Although arterial oxygen saturation during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was slightly lower in patients with Rett syndrome (nadir, 94% +/- 2% vs 96% +/- 2%), it remained within the normal range. Parental history reflected the awake respiratory findings in most cases. We conclude that patients with Rett syndrome have normal breathing during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. We speculate that patients with Rett syndrome have normal brain-stem control of ventilation, and that the disordered breathing seen during wakefulness is due to an abnormality of the cortical influence on ventilation.

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