Cheyne-Stokes breathing is form of periodic breathing with apneic intervals in-between. Chenyne and Stokes were physicians in Dublin in the early 19th Century who described the pattern.


Synonym: central periodic breathing (CPB)



(1) periods of rhythmic breathing showing a crescendo-decrescendo pattern

(2) short intervals of apnea separating these periods, with low amplitude breathing before and after


The respiratory pattern is shown in Figure 124 in Hamilton Bailey's Physical Signs.


The pattern may occur while the patient is awake, asleep or both.



(1) head trauma affecting the brainstem (with injury to the respiratory center)

(2) stroke

(3) severe low output heart failure

(4) meningitis

(5) hydrocephalus

(6) brain tumor

(7) subarachnoid hemorrhage

(8) syphilis

(9) drug-induced coma (alcohol, barbiturates, opiates)

(10) altitude sickness


There is some overlap with the breathing in obstructive sleep apnea, However, in sleep apnea the apneic episode is followed by a sudden gasp rather than a rhythmic restart to breathing.


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