Impaired behavioral and neurocognitive function in preschool children with obstructive sleep apnea

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2012 Feb;47(2):180-8. doi: 10.1002/ppul.21534. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


Objective: We aimed to examine the hypothesis that behavioral and neurocognitive functions of preschool children with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) are impaired compared to healthy children, and improve after adenotonsillectomy (TA).

Methods: A comprehensive assessment battery was used to assess cognitive and behavioral functions, and quality of life in children with OSAS compared to matched controls.

Results: 45 children (mean age 45.5 ± 9 months, 73% boys, BMI 15.7 ± 2) with OSAS were compared to 26 healthy children (mean age 48.6 ± 8 months, 46% boys, BMI 16.4 ± 2). Mean AHI in the OSAS group was 13.2 ± 10.7 (ranging from 1.2 to 57). Significantly impaired planning and fluency (executive function) were found in children with OSAS, as well as impaired attention and receptive vocabulary. Parents and teachers described the OSAS group as having significantly more behavior problems. Quality of life questionnaire in children with OSAS (mean 2.3, range 0.7-4.3) was significantly worse compared to controls (mean 0, range: 0-4), P < 0.004. One year following TA, 23 children with OSAS and 18 controls were re-evaluated. Significant improvement was documented in verbal and motor fluency, sustained attention, and vocabulary. After TA, fewer behavioral problems were seen.

Conclusions: Preschool children with OSAS present significantly impaired executive functions, impaired attention and receptive vocabulary, and more behavior problems. One year after TA, the prominent improvements were in behavior and quality of life. These findings suggest that the impact of OSAS on behavioral and cognitive functions begins in early childhood.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Attention / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child Behavior / physiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vocabulary