Apparent Life-Threatening Event
Alternate Names : Apnea Spell, Infant Apnea, Acute Life-Threatening Episode, ALTE
How is the condition diagnosed?
The diagnosis of ALTE begins with a thorough physical exam and a
full medical history. The infant may appear fine and healthy. Various lab tests will
usually be normal.
The healthcare provider will want information on how the baby was
before and after the episode. He or she will ask a variety of questions including:
Were there any signs of illness before or after the episode, such as
rapid or labored breathing,
or slow heartbeat?
Does the infant breast-feed
or take a bottle? Does the infant eat quickly? Is there any choking or spitting up?
Has the infant been exposed to any toxic substances or
Is there any family history of sudden infant death syndrome
(also called SIDS), death in infancy, or genetic disorders?
How active does the infant usually seem?
Does the infant have a painful or high-pitched cry?
How long did the ALTE seem to last?
Were there any abnormal movements of the arms, legs, or eyes during the
If the infant appears ill, a variety of lab tests may be done to find
the underlying cause of the ALTE. The tests done depend on the infant's
symptoms. For example, a spinal tap
may be done on an infant who has an episode of ALTE along with a fever in
order to test for meningitis,
a serious infection. If a heart murmur
is heard, further cardiac testing may be done, such as an
A chest X-ray
may be done if the doctor suspects pneumonia
or whooping cough.