Diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in children: a systematic review

Sleep Med Rev. 2013 Oct;17(5):331-40. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2012.08.004. Epub 2013 Jan 30.


Objective: To investigate diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) of different tests for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) compared to polysomnography (PSG) in children.

Methods: We performed a systematic review according to DTA criteria published by the Cochrane Collaboration. Studies that compared any possible diagnostic test with PSG for diagnosing OSA were considered. Study quality assessment was conducted in each selected study and DTA measures recalculated by hand whenever possible. Excellent DTA was defined as positive likelihood ratio (PLR) > 10 and negative likelihood ratio (NLR) < 0.1.

Results: We identified 1064 potentially relevant studies, of which 33 met inclusion criteria. Study quality was generally low; 5 studies fulfilled all quality criteria and 11 studies included >100 subjects. Included studies compared 40 different tests to PSG. Only 13 studies used the currently accepted definition for OSA (i.e., apnea hypopnea index ≥1). In these studies, PLR ranged from 1.017 to ∞, NLR from 0 to 1.089. Sleep lab-based polygraphy, urinary biomarkers, and rhinomanometry (one study each) showed excellent DTA.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence concerning diagnostic alternatives to PSG for identifying OSA in children. However, polygraphy, urinary biomarkers, and rhinomanometry may be valid tests if their apparently high DTA is confirmed by subsequent studies.

Keywords: Pediatric; Polysomnography; Sleep disordered breathing; Snoring.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*