Adenotonsillectomy vs observation for management of mild obstructive sleep apnea in children

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Jan;150(1):126-32. doi: 10.1177/0194599813509780. Epub 2013 Oct 29.


Objective: To determine the impact of adenotonsillectomy vs observation on quality of life (QOL) in children with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Study design: Prospective, nonrandomized trial.

Setting: Tertiary children's hospital.

Subjects and methods: Sixty-four children (ages 3-16 years) with mild OSA (apnea hypopnea index between 1 and 5 on polysomnogram) completed the study. Caregivers chose between management options of adenotonsillectomy and observation and completed validated QOL instruments (OSA-18 and Children's Health Questionnaire) at baseline, early, and late follow-ups. The primary outcome measure was QOL.

Results: Thirty patients chose adenotonsillectomy, while 34 were observed. Total OSA-18 scores at baseline were significantly poorer (P = .01) in the surgery group (72.3) compared with the observation group (58.5). Four months following surgery, OSA-18 scores improved by 39.1 points over baseline (P = .0001), while there was no change for the observation group (P = .69). After 8 months, OSA-18 scores remained improved in the surgery group, and observation group scores improved by 13.4 points over baseline (P = .005). While OSA-18 scores at the late follow-up visit were poorer in the observation group, the difference was not statistically significant (P = .05). Six observation patients opted for adenotonsillectomy during the study.

Conclusion: Quality of life significantly improves in children with mild OSA after adenotonsillectomy. In children with mild OSA who are observed, QOL improvements at early follow-up are less pronounced, but significant improvements in QOL are evident after 8 months. QOL instruments may be useful tools to help providers determine which children with mild OSA may benefit from early intervention.

Keywords: adenoidectomy; child; obstructive; quality of life; sleep apnea; tonsillectomy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observation
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / surgery
  • Tonsillectomy*