Background: Children with Down syndrome (DS) are at high risk for OSA. Increasing elevation is known to exacerbate underlying respiratory disorders and worsen sleep quality in people without DS, but whether altitude modulates the severity of OSA in DS is uncertain. In this study, we evaluate the impact of elevation (≤ 1,500 m vs > 1,500 m) on the proportion of hospitalizations involving OSA in children with and without DS.
Methods: Merging the 2009 Kids' Inpatient Database with zip-code linked elevation data, we analyzed differences in the proportion of pediatric hospitalizations (ages 2-20 years) involving OSA, pneumonia, and congenital heart disease (CHD), with and without DS. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate the association of elevation with hospitalizations involving OSA and DS, adjusting for key comorbidities.
Results: Proportionately more DS encounters involved OSA, CHD, and pneumonia within each elevation category than non-DS encounters. However, the risk difference for hospitalizations involving OSA and DS increased disproportionately at higher elevations (DS: 16.2% [95% CI, 9.2%-23.2%]; non-DS: 0.1% [95% CI, -0.4% to 0.7%]). Multivariable estimates of relative risk indicate increased risk for hospitalization involving OSA at higher elevations for people with DS and in children aged 2 to 4 years or with two or more chronic conditions.
Conclusions: At elevations > 1,500 m, children with DS and OSA have a disproportionately higher risk for hospitalization than children with OSA without DS. This finding has not been described previously. With further validation, this finding suggests the need for greater awareness and earlier screening for OSA and its complications in patients with DS living at higher elevations.