Clinical and therapeutic aspects of childhood narcolepsy-cataplexy: A retrospective study of 51 children

Adi Aran, Mali Einen, Ling Lin, Guiseppe Plazzi, Seiji Nishino, Emmanuel Mignot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objective: To report on symptoms and therapies used in childhood narcolepsy-cataplexy. Design, Patients, and Setting: Retrospective series of 51 children who completed the Stanford Sleep Inventory. HLA-DQB1*0602 typing (all tested, and 100% positive), polysomnography or Multiple Sleep Latency Test (76%), and cerebrospinal fluid hypocretin-1 measurements (26%, all with low levels) were also conducted. Prospective data on medication response was collected in 78% using a specially designed questionnaire. Measurements and Results: Patients were separated into children with onset of narcolepsy prior to (53%), around (29%), and after (18%) puberty. None of the children had secondary narcolepsy. Clinical features were similar across puberty groups, except for sleep paralysis, which increased in frequency with age. Common features included excessive weight gain (84% ≥ 4 kg within 6 months of onset of narcolepsy) and earlier puberty (when compared with family members), notably in subjects who gained the most weight. Streptococcus-positive throat infections were reported in 20% of cases within 6 months of onset of narcolepsy. Polysomnographic features were similar across groups, but 3 prepubertal children did not meet Multiple Sleep Latency Test diagnostic criteria. Regarding treatment, the most used and continued medications were modafinil (84% continued), sodium oxybate (79%), and venlafaxine (68%). Drugs such as methylphenidate, tricyclic antidepressants, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were often tried but rarely continued. Modafinil was reported to be effective for treating sleepiness, venlafaxine for cataplexy, and sodium oxybate for all symptoms, across all puberty groups. At the conclusion of the study, half of children with prepubertal onset of narcolepsy were treated "off label" with sodium oxybate alone or with the addition of one other compound. In older children, however, most patients needed more than 2 drugs. Conclusion: This study reports on the clinical features of childhood narcolepsy and documents the safe use of treatments commonly used in adults in young children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1464
Number of pages8
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2010


  • Cataplexy
  • Childhood
  • DQB1*0602
  • HLA
  • Hypocretin
  • Modafinil
  • MSLT
  • Narcolepsy
  • Orexin
  • Sodium oxybate
  • Venlafaxine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Clinical Neurology


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