The role of the nasopharyngeal airway for obstructive sleep apnea in syndromic craniosynostosis

J Craniofac Surg. 2008 May;19(3):659-63. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0b013e31816ae386.


Syndromic craniosynostosis is known to be associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can often present in infancy. Although multifactorial, a predominant contributing factor is midface hypoplasia. Nasal continuous positive airway pressure has proven to be an effective treatment modality but may be poorly tolerated in certain cases. This study looks at the effectiveness of bypassing midface obstruction with a nasopharyngeal airway (NPA). Twenty-seven children with syndromic craniosynostosis with confirmed moderate to severe OSA were initially treated with an NPA. The mean age of NPA insertion was 12.3 months (range, 0.5-48 mo). Seventeen had severe OSA, and 10 had moderate OSA preinsertion. Post-NPA insertion, 26 of 27 children (96%) demonstrated an improvement in sleep severity scores, resulting in 3 with moderate OSA and 24 with mild OSA. There was a significant improvement in mean oxygen saturation, mean number of saturation dips greater than 4% per hour, percentage time spent less than 90% SpO2, and number of pulse rate rises per hour. There were no significant differences in mean pulse rate. The NPA was well tolerated by this patient group, with 24 of 26 children retaining it for at least 6 weeks. We believe that an NPA is therefore an effective first-line treatment modality in the management of OSA in children with syndromic craniosynostosis. It is well tolerated by the patient and may obviate the need for continuous positive airway pressure or tracheostomy.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniosynostoses / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Nasopharynx / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / prevention & control*