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Clinical Notes
January 25, 1964

Hyperventilation Syndrome With Unilateral Somatic Symptoms

Author Affiliations

USA, Frankfurt, Germany
From the Department of Internal Medicine, 97th General Hospital. Dr. Tavel is now a National Heart Institute trainee at Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis.

JAMA. 1964;187(4):301-303. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060170055018

OVERBREATHING produces a symptom-complex which is commonly encountered by the medical profession: Published data1,2 would lead one to conclude that 5% to 11% of all general-medical patients have complaints resulting directly or indirectly from hyperventilation. The symptom-complex has been well described during the past quarter-century1-8 and ordinarily presents no diagnostic challenge. However, considerable confusion can arise when somatic symptoms resulting from the overbreathing occur unilaterally, for these symptoms possess certain similarities to serious organic disease. This peculiar localization of symptoms has been mentioned briefly by other writers3,5-8 and is believed to be rare. Hysteria has been postulated as its cause,8 but this theory remains hypothetical.

During an 18-month period, this writer has seen seven cases manifesting this curious phenomenon. The purpose herein is to give two cases as examples and summarize briefly the clinical findings, to point out the approximate frequency of unilateral symptoms, and to