Objective. This technical report describes the procedures involved in developing the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome in children. The group of primary interest for this report was otherwise healthy children older than 1 year who might have adenotonsillar hypertrophy or obesity as underlying risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). The goals of the committee were to enhance the primary care clinician’s ability to recognize OSAS, identify the most appropriate procedure for diagnosis of OSAS, identify risks associated with pediatric OSAS, and evaluate management options for OSAS.
Methods. A literature search was initially conducted for 2the years 1966–1999 and then updated to include 2000. The search was limited to English language literature concerning children older than 2 and younger than 18 years. Titles and abstracts were reviewed for relevance, and committee members reviewed in detail any possibly appropriate articles to determine eligibility for inclusion. Additional articles were obtained by a review of literature and committee members’ files. Committee members compiled evidence tables and met to review and discuss the literature that was collected.
Results. A total of 2115 titles were reviewed, of which 113 provided relevant original data for analysis. These articles were mainly case series and cross-sectional studies; overall, very few methodologically strong cohort studies or randomized, controlled trials concerning OSAS have been published. In addition, a minority of studies satisfactorily differentiated primary snoring from true OSAS. Reports of the prevalence of habitual snoring in children ranged from 3.2% to 12.1%, and estimates of OSAS ranged from 0.7% to 10.3%; these studies were too heterogeneous for data pooling. Children with sleep-disordered breathing are at increased risk for hyperactivity and learning problems. The combined odds ratio for neurobehavioral abnormalities in snoring children compared with controls is 2.93 (95% confidence interval: 2.23–3.83). A number of case series have documented decreased somatic growth in children with OSAS; right ventricular dysfunction and systemic hypertension also have been reported in children with OSAS. However, the risk growth and cardiovascular problems cannot be quantified from the published literature. Overnight polysomnography (PSG) is recognized as the gold standard for diagnosis of OSAS, and there are currently no satisfactory alternatives. The diagnostic accuracy of symptom questionnaires and other purely clinical approaches is low. Pulse oximetry appears to be specific but insensitive. Other methods, including audiotaping or videotaping and nap or home overnight PSG, remain investigational. Adenotonsillectomy is curative in 75% to 100% of children with OSAS, including those who are obese. Up to 27% of children undergoing adenotonsillectomy for OSAS have postoperative respiratory complications, but estimates are varied. Risk factors for persistent OSAS after adenotonsillectomy include continued snoring and a high apnea-hypopnea index on the preoperative PSG.
Conclusions. OSAS is common in children and is associated with significant sequelae. Overnight PSG is currently the only reliable diagnostic modality that can differentiate OSAS from primary snoring. However, the PSG criteria for OSAS have not been definitively validated, and it is not clear that primary snoring without PSG-defined OSAS is benign. Adenotonsillectomy is the first-line treatment for OSAS but requires careful postoperative monitoring because of the high risk of respiratory complications. Adenotonsillectomy is usually curative, but children with persistent snoring (and perhaps with severely abnormal preoperative PSG results) should have PSG repeated postoperatively.