Importance: Although children with low socioeconomic status (SES) have increased risk for sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), their access to subspecialty care is often limited. Polysomnography (PSG) is the gold standard diagnostic test used to characterize SDB and diagnose obstructive sleep apnea; however, it is unknown whether SES impacts timeliness of obtaining PSG and surgical treatment with adenotonsillectomy (AT).
Objective: To evaluate the impact of SES on the timing of PSG, surgery with AT, and loss to follow-up for children with SDB.
Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective cohort analysis conducted in tertiary outpatient pediatric otolaryngology clinics among patients newly evaluated for SDB over a 3-month period who did not have prior PSG ordered and had a minimum of 1-year follow-up.
Main outcomes and measures: Public insurance (Medical Assistance [MA]) was used as a proxy for low SES. Demographics and disposition between groups were compared using t tests and χ2 analysis. Logistic regression adjusting for disposition and insurance was used to predict loss to follow-up. Days to PSG and days to AT were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier estimator, and the log-rank test was used to compare distribution of time to events between insurance groups.
Results: A total of 136 children (without PSG) were evaluated for SDB over the course of 3 months; 62 (45.6%) had MA. Polysomnography was recommended for 55 children (27 of 55 [49%] with MA vs 28 of 55 [50%] with private insurance; P > .99). After the initial visit, 24 of 55 children with PSG requested (44%) were completely lost to follow-up (9 of 27 [33%] with MA vs 15 of 28 [54%] private insurance; P = .34). Children with MA who obtained PSG experienced longer intervals between initial encounter and PSG (mean interval, 141.1 days) than privately insured children (mean interval, 49.9 days) (P = .001). For those children who ultimately underwent AT surgery after obtaining PSG (n = 14), mean (SD) time to AT was longer for children with MA (222.3 [48.2] days vs 95.2 [66.1] days; P = .001).
Conclusions and relevance: Children with public insurance experienced longer intervals from initial evaluation to PSG or surgery. Almost half of patients with PSG requested were lost to follow-up, regardless of SES. These findings suggest that PSG may be a deterrent for definitive care for all children, and particularly for children with public insurance or low SES. This study emphasizes the need to understand factors contributing to disparities surrounding delay in care with PSG and surgery for children with SDB.