Background: The aim of this study was to determine the frequency and type of respiratory complications after adenotonsillectomy in children. A second aim was to assess the ability of preoperative sleep studies to identify children at risk for respiratory complications.
Methods: Children referred for sleep studies between 1992 and 1998, who underwent adenotonsillectomy within 6 months of the preoperative study, were reviewed. The study focused on two variables: the obstructive apnea and hypopnea index and the oxygen saturation nadir. Medical charts were reviewed for postoperative respiratory complications.
Results: Three hundred forty-nine children were referred for sleep studies, and 163 met the inclusion criteria. Thirty-four children (21%) had postoperative respiratory complications requiring a medical intervention. Children experiencing respiratory complications were younger (aged < 2 yr; adjusted odds ratio, 4.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-11) and had an associated medical condition (odds ratio, 3; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-6.5). A preoperative obstructive apnea and hypopnea index of 5 or more events per hour increased the chance of postoperative respiratory complications (odds ratio, 7.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.7-19.3), as did a preoperative oxygen saturation nadir of 80% or less (odds ratio, 6.4; 95% confidence interval, 2.8-14.5). A preoperative oxygen saturation nadir of 80% or less had a likelihood ratio of 3.1, increasing the probability of postoperative respiratory complications from 20 to 50%.
Conclusions: The data suggest, but do not prove, that preoperative nocturnal oximetry could be a useful preoperative test to identify children who are at increased risk for postoperative respiratory complications.