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Chemoreflex failure and sleep-disordered breathing in familial dysautonomia: Implications for sudden death during sleep

Published:February 14, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autneu.2019.02.003

      Abstract

      Familial dysautonomia (Riley–Day syndrome, hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type III) is a rare autosomal recessive disease characterized by impaired development of primary sensory and autonomic neurons resulting in a severe neurological phenotype, which includes arterial baroreflex and chemoreflex failure with high frequency of sleep-disordered breathing and sudden death during sleep. Although a rare disease, familial dysautonomia represents a unique template to study the interactions between sleep-disordered breathing and abnormal chemo- and baroreflex function. In patients with familial dysautonomia, ventilatory responses to hypercapnia are reduced, and to hypoxia are almost absent. In response to hypoxia, these patients develop paradoxical hypoventilation, hypotension, bradycardia, and potentially, death. Impaired ventilatory control due to chemoreflex failure acquires special relevance during sleep when conscious control of respiration withdraws. Overall, almost all adult (85%) and pediatric (95%) patients have some degree of sleep-disordered breathing. Obstructive apnea events are more frequent in adults, whereas central apnea events are more severe and frequent in children. The annual incidence rate of sudden death during sleep in patients with familial dysautonomia is 3.4 per 1000 person-year, compared to 0.5–1 per 1000 person-year of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. This review summarizes recent developments in the understanding of sleep-disordered breathing in patients with familial dysautonomia, the risk factors for sudden death during sleep, and the specific interventions that could prevent it.

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