Background. Brainstem dysfunction in newborns (BDN) is an association of symptoms originally described in the Pierre-Robin sequence. BDN is thought to result from a deficiency of the sucking and swallowing embryonic organization. Population and methods. Between 1983 to 1993, 48 infants without cleft palate were referred for suck and swallow abnormalities. They were considered to have BDN because they presented three of the four following criteria: neonatal suck and swallow difficulties; pharyngeo-oesophageal uncoordination with abnormal oesophageal manometria; upper airway obstruction, either clinically obvious or detected on laryngoscopy; vagal overactivity, either clinically obvious or detected during Holter recording with ocular compression. Results. Among these 48 infants, 30 were affected with polymalformative syndrome often involving embryonic fields derived from the neural crest. Three infants had a conotruncal cardiac malformation and 15 had no associated malformation. These latter 15 infants presented with facial dysmorphic features including reciding chin, glossoptosis, U-shape palate and a vertical tongue. From birth or the first weeks of life, they had suck and swallow difficulties with various functional symptoms: slow babybottle intake, cough or velo-pharyngeal incoordination, upper airway obstruction or apparent life threatening events (ALTE). Diagnosis was confirmed by both clinical observation and three simple investigations namely: laryngoscopy, oesophageal manometria and Holter recording with ocular compression. Ten children were nasogastric tube or gastrostomy fed, one had a tracheostomy and one had a nightly O2 supplementation. While the overall functional prognosis was good whatever the initial symptoms, 50% of these children had mental retardation, mostly moderate. Conclusion. Examination of short-term follow-up in these children has stressed that BDN requires a specific management of both nutritional and respiratory troubles. Finally, BDN should lead to the active search of an underlying polymalformative syndrome and to an accurate neurologic evaluation.
- infant, newborn
- sucking behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health