There is currently no consensus on the best method of managing of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in childhood. In the present paper, an algorithm for the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder is proposed. Sleep apnea is suspected when parents report relevant symptoms or when there are abnormalities that predispose to OSA such as adenotonsillar hypertrophy, obesity, craniofacial anomalies, or neuromuscular disorders. OSA-associated morbidity including elevated blood pressure, daytime sleepiness or learning problems, growth failure, and enuresis should be recognized. Severity of intermittent upper airway obstruction during sleep can be determined objectively by polysomnography or, if polysomnography is not available, by nocturnal pulse oximetry. Risk factors predicting persistence of OSA in adolescence (male gender, development of obesity) need to be identified. Children with moderate-to-severe OSA, or with mild OSA, but accompanied by morbidity, or by risk factors predicting persistence of the disorder should have priority for treatment. An individualized and multifaceted therapeutic approach which addresses in a step-by-step fashion all abnormalities that contribute to upper airway obstruction during sleep is necessary.
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