Ondine's curse is a disorder where involuntary ventilatory drive is lost. Patients who fall asleep stop breathing and die.
It is rare and may be a primary genetic problem.
Recurrent exposure to hypercapnia or hypoxia may result in decreased ventilatory drive.
Iatrogenic cases have followed over-zealous surgery to relieve chronic pain - bilateral division of the spinothalamic tracts in the neck can involve the fibres required for involuntary breathing effort.
Last reviewed 01/2018