Cheyne Stokes Breathing

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Cheyne Stokes respiration describes an abnormal pattern of breathing where it is periodically rapid and then absent, rapid and then absent, and so on.

This occurs due to delayed sensing of the partial pressures of oxygen and carbon dioxide, for whatever reason, resulting in oscillation between tachypnoea when oxygen levels fall and carbon dioxide rises, and apnoea when the reverse is true following the period of overbreathing.

Damage to or poor perfusion of the respiratory centres is often the cause.

Cheyne Stokes breathing is recognised as a pre-morbid sign.


  • Heart failure
  • Cerebral infarction
  • Cerebral mass / bleed / tumour
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Opioid administration
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