Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing: New evidence on its development

Sleep Med Rev. 2015 Dec:24:46-56. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.11.008. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in children could be resolved by adenotonsillectomy (T&A). However, incomplete results are often noted post-surgery. Because of this partial resolution, long-term follow-up is needed to monitor for reoccurrence of SDB, which may be diagnosed years later through reoccurrence of complaints or in some cases, through systematic investigations. Children undergoing T&A often have small upper airways. Genetics play a role in the fetal development of the skull, the skull base, and subsequently, the size of the upper airway. In non-syndromic children, specific genetic mutations are often unrecognized early in life and affect the craniofacial growth, altering functions such as suction, mastication, swallowing, and nasal breathing. These developmental and functional changes are associated with the development of SDB. Children without genetic mutations but with impairment of the above said functions also develop SDB. When applied early in life, techniques involved in the reeducation of these functions, such as myofunctional therapy, alter the craniofacial growth and the associated SDB. This occurs as a result of the continuous interaction between cartilages, bones and muscles involved in the growth of the base of the skull and the face. Recently collected data show the impact of the early changes in craniofacial growth patterns and how these changes lead to an impairment of the developmental functions and consequent persistence of SDB. The presence of nasal disuse and mouth breathing are abnormal functions that are easily amenable to treatment. Understanding the dynamics leading to the development of SDB and recognizing factors affecting the craniofacial growth and the resulting functional impairments, allows appropriate treatment planning which may or may not include T&A. Enlargement of lymphoid tissue may actually be a consequence as opposed to a cause of these initial dysfunctions.

Keywords: Craniofacial development; Functional impairment; Genetic involvement; Pediatrics; Sleep-disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / surgery
  • Tonsillectomy