Surveillance study of apparent life-threatening events (ALTE) in the Netherlands

Eur J Pediatr. 2010 Feb;169(2):229-36. doi: 10.1007/s00431-009-1012-2. Epub 2009 Jun 21.


SIDS and ALTE are different entities that somehow show some similarities. Both constitute heterogeneous conditions. The Netherlands is a low-incidence country for SIDS. To study whether the same would hold for ALTE, we studied the incidence, etiology, and current treatment of ALTE in The Netherlands. Using the Dutch Pediatric Surveillance Unit, pediatricians working in second- and third-level hospitals in the Netherlands were asked to report any case of ALTE presented in their hospital from January 2002 to January 2003. A questionnaire was subsequently sent to collect personal data, data on pregnancy and birth, condition preceding the incident, the incident itself, condition after the incident, investigations performed, monitoring or treatment initiated during admission, any diagnosis made at discharge, and treatment or parental support offered after discharge. A total of 115 cases of ALTE were reported, of which 110 questionnaires were filled in and returned (response rate 97%). Based on the national birth rate of 200,000, the incidence of ALTE amounted 0.58/1,000 live born infants. No deaths occurred. Clinical diagnoses could be assessed in 58.2%. Most frequent diagnoses were (percentages of the total of 110 cases) gastro-esophageal reflux and respiratory tract infection (37.3% and 8.2%, respectively); main symptoms were change of color and muscle tone, choking, and gagging. The differences in diagnoses are heterogeneous. In 34%, parents shook their infants, which is alarmingly high. Pre- and postmature infants were overrepresented in this survey (29.5% and 8.2%, respectively). Ten percent had recurrent ALTE. In total, 15.5% of the infants were discharged with a home monitor. In conclusion, ALTE has a low incidence in second- and third-level hospitals in the Netherlands. Parents should be systematically informed about the possible devastating effects of shaking an infant. Careful history taking and targeted additional investigations are of utmost importance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Illness / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sudden Infant Death / diagnosis
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult