Behavior, Quality of Life Improve for Children Who Receive Sleep Apnea Treatment

Behavioral and emotional difficulties are found in children with obstructive sleep apnea, but they improve after treatment, according to a study in the January issue of Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.


“Sleep-disordered breathing in children is most commonly caused by adenotonsillar hypertrophy [enlarged adenoids and tonsils], and tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T & A) is curative in 85 percent to 95 percent of cases,” according to background information in the article. “Sleep-disordered breathing is viewed as a continuum of severity, from partial obstruction of the upper airway, producing snoring, to increased upper airway resistance to continuous episodes of complete upper airway obstruction or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Although the prevalence of primary snoring in children is 12 percent, the prevalence of OSA is one percent to three percent.”

Khoa D. Tran, M.D., and colleagues from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, assessed child behavior and quality of life by using standardized surveys completed by parents of children with OSA (n = 42) before and after T & A, compared with 41 children in the control group with no history of snoring undergoing unrelated elective surgery.

“In this study of 42 children with documented OSA undergoing T & A for treatment and 41 children without OSA undergoing elective surgery, a high prevalence of behavioral and emotional problems was found in the OSA group (29 percent vs. 10 percent),” the researchers report. “A significant improvement was found in the total problem score classification after T & A: only 12 percent of patients scored in the abnormal or borderline range compared with 20 percent of the control children.” Large improvements in quality of life measures were also found by the researchers.

The authors conclude: “This study provides further evidence that behavioral and emotional problems are present in children with OSA and improve after treatment. Large improvements in disease-specific health-related QOL (quality of life) are also found.”

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