Otolaryngic manifestations in children presenting with apparent life-threatening events

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997 Jun;116(6 Pt 1):575-9. doi: 10.1016/S0194-59989770230-4.


Apparent life-threatening event (ALTE) is a term used to characterize an event of unknown cause after an infant is found limp, cyanotic, bradycardic, and/or requiring resuscitation. Like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ALTE is a general term used until a precise diagnosis can be established. The relationship between ALTE and SIDS has not been clearly defined, although 7 to 15 percent of children with ALTE die of SIDS. If children with ALTE are at greater risk for SIDS, morbidity and mortality may be prevented if the underlying pathology can be identified and corrected or closely monitored. The otolaryngologist is being consulted more frequently to evaluate children who have been through an ALTE to help elucidate any underlying pathology that may have caused the near-death experience. This retrospective chart review reports the evaluation of 30 infants with ALTE requiring consultation by the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago during a 3-year period. We reviewed the literature and here compare our findings with current animal models. Of the 30 children evaluated, 53% had gastroesophageal reflux, 40% had laryngeal abnormalities, 13% had tracheal abnormalities, and 10% had pharyngeal abnormalities. Thirteen percent of the children had nonotolaryngic anomalies identified during evaluation. Surgical intervention was required in 10 patients and medical treatment was used in 18. When evaluating a child with ALTE, a complete history and physical examination, evaluation for gastroesophageal reflux, assessment for upper airway obstruction by radiographs and endoscopy, and a multidisciplinary approach are recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Illness*
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Laryngeal Diseases / complications
  • Male
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Diseases / complications*
  • Polysomnography
  • Retrospective Studies