Background: Snoring children may present symptoms suggestive of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Different and controversial methods to establish the diagnosis and to choose the treatment modalities have been proposed.
Objectives: To study children with symptoms raising the suspicion of OSAS with overnight polysomnography (PSG). To evaluate the efficacy of adenotonsillectomy as treatment of pediatric OSAS and to elucidate the natural history of OSAS and primary snoring.
Design: A controlled, prospective, nonrandomized clinical trial.
Setting: Academic medical center.
Subjects: Fifty-eight snoring but otherwise healthy children aged 3 to 10 years with symptoms suggestive of OSAS underwent PSG twice, 6 months apart. Thirty healthy children served as controls.
Results: Twenty-seven children had OSAS with an obstructive apnea/hypopnea index greater than 1, while 31 had primary snoring. There were statistical differences in the symptoms and signs among the 3 study groups. Adenotonsillectomy was curative in the 21 children with OSAS who were operated on. Obstructive apneas and hypopneas in the healthy, nonsnoring children were almost nonexistent in this study.
Conclusions: Half of the children or fewer with symptoms suggestive of OSAS actually had the condition. Clinical symptoms may raise the suspicion, but it is not possible to establish the diagnosis without PSG. Because snoring and obstructive symptoms may resolve over time, a normal PSG finding may help the clinician decide on an observation period. Adenotonsillectomy is curative in most cases of pediatric OSAS. Obstructive symptoms may continue after adenoidectomy alone.