Evaluation and Management of Children with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Lung. 2020 Apr;198(2):257-270. doi: 10.1007/s00408-020-00342-5. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a common pediatric disorder characterized by recurrent events of partial or complete upper airway obstruction during sleep which result in abnormal ventilation and sleep pattern. OSAS in children is associated with neurobehavioral deficits and cardiovascular morbidity which highlights the need for prompt recognition, diagnosis, and treatment. The purpose of this state-of-the-art review is to provide an update on the evaluation and management of children with OSAS with emphasis on children with complex medical comorbidities and those with residual OSAS following first-line treatment. Proposed treatment strategies reflecting recommendations from a variety of professional societies are presented. All children should be screened for OSAS and those with typical symptoms (e.g., snoring, restless sleep, and daytime hyperactivity) or risk factors (e.g., neurologic, genetic, and craniofacial disorders) should undergo further evaluation including referral to a sleep specialist or pediatric otolaryngologist and overnight polysomnography, which provides a definitive diagnosis. A cardiology and/or endocrinology evaluation should be considered in high-risk children. For the majority of children, first-line treatment is tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy; however, some children exhibit multiple levels of airway obstruction and may require additional evaluation and management. Anti-inflammatory medications, weight loss, and oral appliances may be appropriate in select cases, particularly for mild OSAS. Following initial treatment, all children should be monitored for residual symptoms and polysomnography may be repeated to identify persistent disease, which can be managed with positive airway pressure ventilation and additional surgical approaches if required.

Keywords: Adenotonsillectomy (AT); Diagnosis; Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS); Pediatrics; Polysomnography; Sleep disordered breathing (SDB).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pulmonary Ventilation*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Sleep*
  • Treatment Outcome