Sandifer syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatments

The human body is a complex organism, with different systems dedicated to various functions vital for our survival and which generally act in a coordinated and correct manner.

One of these systems is the digestive system, through which we can incorporate the nutrients necessary for survival. However, sometimes this and other bodily systems may have problems or alterations such as deformities or intolerances, or various illnesses, injuries and disorders may come into play.

Sandifer syndrome is one such disorder, which occurs during childhood and causes different symptoms.Although it is not considered dangerous for the child.

Sandifer syndrome: description and symptoms

Sandifer syndrome is a disorder often categorized as a paroxysmal motor, in which motor symptoms derived from alterations in the digestive system appear. It is a disease that occurs in children and especially during the first years of life, although it can appear any time between birth and adolescence, and it is common for the age of onset to be around eighteen months.

Children with Sandifer syndrome experience tremors and spasms lasting several minutes (usually one to three) in areas such as the head, arms, or legs with various hyperextensions and rotations. They often cause stiff necks, stiff postures and arches in the back. And in some cases, there is also obstructive sleep apnea. These motor disturbances can appear at different times of the day, but they tend to appear mostly after ingestion and usually cease during sleep.

In this sense, another of the main symptoms is the presence of esophagitis or inflammation of the esophagus. They often suffer from anemia caused by iron deficiency, poor appetite and dysphagia, vomiting, and abdominal pain.. Hypotonia, weakness and fatigue can also occur.

The causes of this disease

The etiology of Sandifer syndrome is believed to lie in the digestive tract. Usually, it is associated with the presence of reflux during digestion, partially regurgitating food as it passes from the stomach to the esophagus.

Another possible cause arises when the child has a hiatus hernia, In which part of the digestive tract protrudes through the diaphragm and becomes in the thorax rather than in the abdomen. This can cause pain to the child, and in turn cause the aforementioned reflux.

It is believed that in many cases, muscle spasms are the result of an attempt to decrease the level of pain caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Although the symptoms appear to be neurological, in general, at the cerebral level, the child presents a neurotypical neuronal activity, without alteration observed at the level of the electroencephalogram. Thus, Sandifer syndrome would not be caused by a brain or nervous problem, not treating epileptic spasms (with which this disorder is often confused).

behavioral changes

Although Sandifer syndrome does not imply the existence of behavioral alterations, it should be borne in mind that depending on its duration and time of onset, pain derived from the problems that cause it can generate in the child a certain fear conditioned to the fact of feeding. This can lead to issues such as a restricted diet or refusal to eat, although in the long run this fear can be quenched when food intake continues without any pain.

In addition, the presence of anemia can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of motivation in the child., And sleep disturbances which can range from insomnia to hypersomnia.


Sandifer Syndrome is a disorder with a positive prognosis with a good level of recoveryIt is rare that there are serious complications for the child. However, it is important that there is an early diagnosis to avoid possible problems and seek treatment that eliminates or reduces the problem with the digestive tract that generates it.

In this sense, he seeks to address the problem posed by the syndrome. Treatment for gastroesophageal reflux is usually instituted, in which pharmacologically it causes a decrease in the level of gastric acidity. too much surgery may be necessary whether it is due to a hiatus hernia or the reflux treatment is not effective.

In addition to this, other possible symptoms such as iron deficiency anemia should be treated and the inflammation should be reduced in case of esophagitis.

Bibliographical references:

  • Lopez, JM (1999). Paroxysmal motor disorders. Rev Neurol; 28 (161): 89-97.
  • Quintero, MI; Lopez, K .; Belandria, K .; Navarro, D. (2012). Sandifer syndrome. About gastroesophageal reflux disease in children. Gen 66 (2). Caracas
  • Sherman, P. et al. (2009). A global evidence-based consensus on the definition of gastroesophageal reflux disease in the pediatric population. Estic J. Gastroenterol., 104: 1278-1295.

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