Objective: To study the behavior of children with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) before and after adenotonsillectomy using a standardized behavioral rating scale completed by caregivers.
Design and setting: Prospective study of children with OSAS at the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Methods: Children between 2.5 and 18 years of age were included in the study and underwent adenotonsillectomy if the results of polysomnography showed an obstructive apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) of 5 or greater. Caregivers completed the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC) before surgery and a second time within 6 months of surgery. Pre- and postoperative BASC t scores were compared using a paired t test. Repeated measures analysis of variance was used to evaluate the contributions of several covariants to these change scores.
Results: The study population included 52 children. The mean age was 7.1 (range 2.5-14.9) years, and the mean AHI was 16.2 (range 5.0-88.0). Preoperative mean BASC t scores for all behavioral scales and composites were greater than 50. The behavioral scales that showed significant improvement after adenotonsillectomy were aggression, atypicality, depression, hyperactivity, and somatization (p < or = .001). Age, ethnicity, parental education, parental income, and AHI were not correlated with changes in BASC scores.
Conclusions: A high proportion of children with OSAS have externalizing (hyperactivity and aggression) and internalizing (anxiety, depression, and somatization) behavioral problems. These problems improve significantly after adenotonsillectomy. The improvement is dramatic regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, parental education, parental income, or the relative severity of OSAS.