A total of 305 infants presenting with apparent life-threatening events (ALE) were referred by their paediatricians and underwent 24-hour tape recordings of electrocardiogram and abdominal breathing movements (from a pressure capsule transducer). Seventy-seven of these infants, all full-term (greater than or equal to 37 weeks of gestation), were randomly selected, followed up for clinical outcome, and their recordings subjected to a detailed analysis of heart and respiratory rates and breathing patterns. Recordings on 157 age-matched, full-term controls were similarly analysed for comparison purposes. One of the 77 patients suffering from ALE had a pre-existing neurodevelopmental problem, and 4 more cases showed this at follow-up, including 1 case whose ALE was subsequently diagnosed as originating from non-accidental injury. Compared with controls and as a group, the patients suffering from ALE showed higher numbers of apnoeic pauses (p less than 0.001), larger quantities of periodic breathing (p less than 0.01) and lower respiratory rates during regular breathing (p less than 0.01).