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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 72:595 doi:10.1136/jnnp.72.5.595
  • Historical note

Cheyne-Stokes respiration

  1. J M S Pearce
  1. 304 Beverley Road, Anlaby, Hull HU10 7BG, UK; jmspearce@freenet.co.uk

      Neurologists who care for emergencies often encounter Cheyne-Stokes respiration. Abnormal breathing, in which periods of apnoea alternate with a series of gradually increasing depth and frequency, followed by a similar decrease is said to have been described by Hippocrates, although his description is not wholly convincing.1 It is often observed in grave cerebral illnesses. Dr J B Lyons2,3 has written informative details of the works of both Cheyne and Stokes.

      In 1818, John Cheyne described4 a 60 year old man, who suffered from gout who he said was:

      “of a sanguine temperament, circular chest, and full habit of body, for years had lived a very sedentary life, while he indulged habitually in the luxuries of the table.”

      He complained of palpitations and pain in the chest. He had fallen from a chair, but could not remember doing so. Cheyne found an “extremely irregular and unequal pulse” on examination, and the patient was confused and had a headache. …