Breath holding spells in a 13-month-old girl, improvement during iron supplementation – a case report and a literature review

Klinika Kardiologii, Instytut „Pomnik – Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka”. Kierownik Kliniki: prof. dr hab. n. med. Wanda Kawalec
Correspondence to: Klinika Kardiologii, Instytut „Pomnik – Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka”, al. Dzieci Polskich 20, 04-730 Warszawa-Międzylesie
Source of financing: Department own sources

Pediatr Med rodz Vol 5 Numer 4, p. 281-285

Breath holding spells (BHS) are observed in otherwise healthy infants and preschool children. Attacks are typical. They begin with crying usually caused by anger, less commonly by minor trauma. Then they are followed by noiseless state of expiration, with typical change of skin colour, loss of consciousness and postural tone. In severe cases, associated with central nervous system ischaemia, convulsions appear (severe breath holding spells). BHS are frequent reason for referring children to paediatric cardiologist or neurologist to exclude heart disease or epileptic seizures. BHS are divided into three types depending on colour of the skin during the attack: pallid, cyanotic or mixed. Their aetiology is still unclear. Autonomic nervous system dysregulation may play an important role in the pathophysiology of BHS. Several reports suggest the association between iron deficiency and increased frequency of BHS. We present a case of 13-month-old child referred to the cardiology clinic with a three months history of numerous syncopes. During one of the spells, 24-hour holter ECG monitoring showed 16-seconds of asystole. In our patient Iron therapy reduced number and severity of the breath holding spells during 10 months follow-up period.

Keywords: breath holding spells, asystolia, anaemia, iron supplementation, permanent pacing