Intranasal budesonide treatment for children with mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome

Pediatrics. 2008 Jul;122(1):e149-55. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-3398.


Objectives: Intranasal corticosteroids have been advanced as a nonsurgical therapeutic alternative for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, particularly for patients with mild disease, and aims at reducing the size of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissue.

Methods: Of 71 possible candidates, 62 children with polysomnographically diagnosed mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome were recruited onto a double-blind, randomized, crossover trial of intranasal budesonide (32 microg per nostril at bedtime) or placebo for 6 weeks followed by an additional 6-week treatment in the alternative treatment arm after allowing for a 2-week washout period. Polysomnographic assessment and radiographs for assessment of adenoid size were performed after completion of each phase.

Results: There were significant improvements in both polysomnographic measures (sleep latency, slow-wave sleep, and rapid-eye-movement sleep), in the magnitude of respiratory disturbance (apnea/hypopnea index, nadir pulse oxygen saturation), and in adenoid size among the 48 children who completed the treatment phase compared with 32 children who received placebo in their initial arm, with normalization of sleep measures in 54.1% of the treated children. Furthermore, discontinuation of treatment for 8 weeks for 25 children revealed a sustained duration of the initial treatment effect.

Conclusions: A 6-week treatment with intranasal budesonide effectively reduced the severity of mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and the magnitude of the underlying adenoidal hypertrophy, and this effect persisted for at least 8 weeks after cessation of therapy. These findings justify the use of topical steroids as the initial therapeutic option in otherwise healthy children with mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Trial registration: NCT00560586.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoids / pathology
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Budesonide / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Budesonide

Associated data