Background: There are various identifiable diseases or conditions that can be associated with an apparent life-threatening event (ALTE) in infancy. The present study was carried out to investigate the etiology of ALTE based on the discharge diagnoses.
Methods: A protocol for the complete work-up used to examine the cause of ALTE was designed, and was carried out for 69 infants with ALTE.
Results: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) was demonstrated in 38 cases, and chronic gastric volvulus (CGV) was diagnosed in 21 (associated with GERD in 13 infants). Four cases of pertussis and two cases each of sepsis, laryngomalacia, respiratory immaturity, and premature ventricular contractions were found. Others cases presented with pneumonia, meningitis, intussuception, food allergy, epilepsy, and adenoid vegetations. In 12 of the 69 infants with ALTE, no abnormalities were found in any of the studies performed, including two patients with breath-holding spells. In 17 cases, two or more possibly contributing findings were diagnosed.
Conclusion: It is important to recognize that gastroesophageal impairments such as GERD or CGV could be responsible for many incidences of ALTE in infancy. The authors recommend a trial be established to investigate the causes of ALTE, including gastroesophageal evaluations in all infants with ALTE.