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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. …