Cyanotic breath-holding spells in children respond to adenotonsillectomy for sleep-disordered breathing

Christian Guilleminault, Yu Shu Huang, Allison Chan, Chad C. Hagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Children with breath-holding (BH) spells may demonstrate sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) during polysomnography. We studied five young children with cyanotic spells retrospectively and found both SDB and a response to adenotonsillectomy. We therefore proceeded with a prospective investigation of treatment for SDB in children with comorbid cyanotic spells. Nineteen children with cyanotic BH spells were identified and enrolled in the prospective study. Parents chose either treatment or observation. Fourteen children underwent complete SDB evaluation and treatment trials while five selected observation only (control group). Sleep and sleep-surgery specialist evaluation and polysomnography revealed the presence of a narrow upper-airway and an abnormal respiratory disturbance index in all 14 children. Nasal CPAP was not successful, but adenotonsillectomy performed near 14 months of age eliminated SDB. BH spells were eliminated 1 month after surgery, while they persisted to the end of the study (24 months of age) in the control group. In conclusion, the presence of cyanotic BH should prompt investigation and polysomnography for possible SDB. Independent treatment of SDB may hasten resolution of BH spells in these cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenotonsillectomy
  • Breath-holding spells
  • Children
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Small upper airway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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