Ondine's curse

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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