An overview of reflux-associated disorders in infants: apnea, laryngospasm, and aspiration

Am J Med. 2001 Dec 3;111 Suppl 8A:60S-63S. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(01)00823-3.


Problematic airway responses in infants are common. Reflux-induced apnea affects nearly 1% of infants and involves airway closure or laryngospasm. Recurrent or chronic stridor, caused by dynamic or structural airway abnormalities, occurs in up to 1 in 100 babies. It can be difficult to distinguish microaspiration, which may represent inadequate airway protection mechanisms, from reflexive responses to esophageal refluxate, which may represent overeffective airway protection mechanisms. The diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in babies can be facilitated by a careful history in conjunction with esophageal pH probe monitoring, laryngoscopic evaluation, bronchoalveolar lavage, or nuclear medicine scintigraphy. Conservative lifestyle measures for treating supraesophageal manifestations of infantile GER include prone positioning and thickened feedings. Prokinetic and acid-suppressing therapies are widely used, but their efficacy is incompletely established, and none is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for this purpose. Fundoplication is not indicated if nonsurgical management can prevent serious problems during the child's maturation phase when many of these manifestations spontaneously resolve. Much remains to be learned about the developmental aspects of these supraesophageal manifestations of GER. This information not only will provide a greater understanding of developmental pathophysiology, but also will improve the clinical care of large numbers of infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / diagnosis
  • Apnea / epidemiology*
  • Apnea / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Laryngismus / diagnosis
  • Laryngismus / epidemiology*
  • Laryngismus / therapy
  • Male
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Rate