Study objective: To determine the prevalence of sleep-related breathing disturbances in a large cohort of school-aged and preschool-aged children of Southern Italy.
Design and setting: This cross-sectional prevalence study was designed in two phases: a screening phase aimed to identify symptomatic children from a cohort of 1,207 by a self-administered questionnaire, and an instrumental phase for the definition of sleep-related disorders.
Patients and methods: One thousand two hundred seven children were screened by a self-administered questionnaire. There were 612 female children (51%) and 595 male children (mean age, 7.3 years; range, 3 to 11 years). According to answers, children were classified in three groups: nonsnorers, occasional snorers, and habitual snorers. All habitual snoring children underwent a polysomnographic home evaluation, and those with an oxygen desaturation index > 2 were considered for nocturnal polygraphic monitoring (NPM). Children with an apnea/hypopnea index > 3 received a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).
Results: A total of 895 questionnaires (74.2%) were returned and scored; 710 children (79.3%) were identified as nonsnorers, 141 children (15.8%) were identified as occasional snorers, and 44 children (4.9%) were identified as habitual snorers. The percentage of male children who were habitual snorers was higher than the percentage of female children who were habitual snorers (6.1% vs 3.7%, respectively; p < 0.09). OSAS was diagnosed in nine children by NPM.
Conclusion: The lower limit of prevalence of OSAS in childhood is 1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.8 to 1.2). If we add the five children who underwent adenoidectomy and/or tonsillectomy because of worsening clinical condition and the two children who were shown to have evidence of OSAS on domiciliary oximetry, then the prevalence is 1.8% (higher limit of prevalence; 95% CI, 1.6 to 2.0).