Executive summary of respiratory indications for polysomnography in children: an evidence-based review

Sleep. 2011 Mar 1;34(3):389-98AW. doi: 10.1093/sleep/34.3.389.


Objective: This comprehensive, evidence-based review provides a systematic analysis of the literature regarding the validity, reliability, and clinical utility of polysomnography for characterizing breathing during sleep in children. Findings serve as the foundation of practice parameters regarding respiratory indications for polysomnography in children.

Methods: A task force of content experts performed a systematic review of the relevant literature and graded the evidence using a standardized grading system. Two hundred forty-three evidentiary papers were reviewed, summarized, and graded. The analysis addressed the operating characteristics of polysomnography as a diagnostic procedure in children and identified strengths and limitations of polysomnography for evaluation of respiratory function during sleep.

Results: The analysis documents strong face validity and content validity, moderately strong convergent validity when comparing respiratory findings with a variety of relevant independent measures, moderate-to-strong test-retest validity, and limited data supporting discriminant validity for characterizing breathing during sleep in children. The analysis documents moderate-to-strong test-retest reliability and interscorer reliability based on limited data. The data indicate particularly strong clinical utility in children with suspected sleep related breathing disorders and obesity, evolving metabolic syndrome, neurological, neurodevelopmental, or genetic disorders, and children with craniofacial syndromes. Specific consideration was given to clinical utility of polysomnography prior to adenotonsillectomy (AT) for confirmation of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. The most relevant findings include: (1) recognition that clinical history and examination are often poor predictors of respiratory polygraphic findings, (2) preoperative polysomnography is helpful in predicting risk for perioperative complications, and (3) preoperative polysomnography is often helpful in predicting persistence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome in patients after AT. No prospective studies were identified that address whether clinical outcome following AT for treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is improved in association with routine performance of polysomnography before surgery in otherwise healthy children. A small group of papers confirm the clinical utility of polysomnography for initiation and titration of positive airway pressure support.

Conclusions: Pediatric polysomnography shows validity, reliability, and clinical utility that is commensurate with most other routinely employed diagnostic clinical tools or procedures. Findings indicate that the "gold standard" for diagnosis of sleep related breathing disorders in children is not polysomnography alone, but rather the skillful integration of clinical and polygraphic findings by a knowledgeable sleep specialist. Future developments will provide more sophisticated methods for data collection and analysis, but integration of polysomnographic findings with the clinical evaluation will represent the fundamental diagnostic challenge for the sleep specialist.

Keywords: Polysomnography; clinical utility; indications; obstructive sleep apnea syndrome; pediatric; sleep related breathing disorders.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Oximetry
  • Polysomnography / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiration
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Snoring / diagnosis
  • Snoring / physiopathology