Craniofacial morphology and sleep apnea in children with obstructed upper airways: differences between genders

Sleep Med. 2012 Jun;13(6):616-20. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objectives: To correlate sleep apnea with craniofacial characteristics and facial patterns according to gender.

Methods: In this prospective survey we studied 77 male and female children (3-12 years old) with an upper airway obstruction due to tonsil and adenoid enlargement. Children with lung problems, neurological disorders and syndromes, obstructive septal deviation, previous orthodontic treatment, orthodontic surgeries or oral surgeries, or obesity were excluded. Patients were subjected to physical examinations, nasal fiberoptic endoscopy, teleradiography for cephalometric analysis, and polysomnography. Cephalometric analysis included the following skeletal craniofacial measurements: facial axis (FA), facial depth (FD), mandibular plane angle (MP), lower facial height (LFH), mandibular arch (MA), and vertical growth coefficient (VERT) index.

Results: The prevalence of sleep apnea was 46.75% with no statistical difference between genders. Among children with obstructive sleep apnea (Apneia Hypopnea Index - AHI ≥ 1) boys had higher AHI values than girls. A predominance of the dolichofacial pattern (81.9%) was observed. The following skeletal craniofacial measurements correlated with AHI in boys: FD (r(s)=-0.336/p=0.020), MP (r(s)=0.486/p=0.00), and VERT index (r(s)=-0.337/p=0.019). No correlations between craniofacial measurements and AHI were identified in girls.

Conclusions: Craniofacial morphology may influence the severity of sleep apnea in boys but not in girls.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenoids / pathology
  • Cephalometry / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / pathology*
  • Endoscopy
  • Face / abnormalities
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandible / pathology
  • Nasal Cavity / pathology
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology
  • Polysomnography
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / pathology*