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Hypoplasia and neuronal immaturity of the hypoglossal nucleus in sudden infant death
  1. G Ottaviani,
  2. L Matturri,
  3. R Mingrone,
  4. A M Lavezzi
  1. Institute of Pathology, “Lino Rossi” Research Centre for the study and prevention of unexpected perinatal death and SIDS, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Giulia Ottaviani
 Institute of Pathology, University of Milan, Via della Commenda 19, 20122 Milan, Italy; giulia.ottaviani{at}


Objective: To report the case of five month old female baby with a history of episodes of gastro-oesophageal reflux and pneumonia. Her sudden death offered a unique insight into the possible role of delayed neuronal maturation and hypoplasia of the hypoglossal nucleus in representing a likely morphological substrate of sudden death.

Methods: Morphometric analysis was carried out with an Image-Pro Plus Image analyser (Media Cybernetics) on both sides of the brain stem.

Results: Hypoplasia and neuronal immaturity of the hypoglossal nucleus were demonstrated, accompanied by hypoplasia of the arcuate nucleus.

Conclusions: Much attention should be paid to the possible role of the hypoglossal nucleus in determining a lethal outcome in infancy through impairment of deglutition and subsequent recurrent episodes of pneumonia, and as a necropsy finding.

  • SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome
  • hypoglossal nucleus hypoplasia
  • hypoglossal nucleus neuronal immaturity
  • aspiration pneumonia
  • passive smoking
  • borderline SIDS

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