Sleep Endoscopy Findings in Children With Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Small Tonsils

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2022 Aug;131(8):851-858. doi: 10.1177/00034894211045645. Epub 2021 Sep 16.


Objective: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in children is treated primarily with adenotonsillectomy (AT). When clinical exam demonstrates small tonsils, the success of AT in resolving OSA is uncertain. The purpose of this study is to determine the utility of Drug induced Sleep Endoscopy (DISE) for children with OSA and small tonsils (Brodsky scale 1+) and to identify what obstructive trends exist in this subset of patients and to determine the utility of DISE-directed surgical intervention in patients with small tonsils.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed for patients who underwent DISE at a tertiary care center over a 2-year period. Inclusion criteria were 1+ tonsils and a positive sleep study. Data collected included DISE findings, BMI, comorbid conditions, and pre-op PSG data.

Results: Forty children were included with a mean age of 5.0 years (range 8 months-16 years). Mean preoperative AHI was 5.46 and mean oxygen saturation nadir was 87.1%. The most common contributor to airway obstruction was the adenoid (29 patients, 72.5%), followed by the tongue base or lingual tonsil (21 patients, 52.5%). The palatine tonsils (10 patients, 25.0%), epiglottis (10.0%), or obstruction intrinsic to the larynx (10.0%) were significantly less frequently identified as contributors to OSA when compared to the adenoid (P < .001). The majority of patients had multilevel obstruction (25 patients, 62.5%). Adenoidectomy (27 patients, 67.5%) was the most commonly performed procedure, followed by tonsillectomy (10 patients, 25.0%, P < .001) and tongue base surgery (9 patient 22.5%, P < .001).

Conclusion: In this group, small palatine tonsils were infrequently identified as a contributor to airway obstruction and tonsillectomy was avoided in most cases. This study illustrates the utility of DISE as a tool to personalize the surgical management of pediatric patients with OSA and small tonsils on physical exam.

Keywords: adenoidectomy; drug induced sleep endoscopy; miscellaneous; palatine tonsils; pediatric OSA surgical treatment; pediatric obstructive sleep apnea; pediatric otolaryngology; sleep endoscopy; sleep surgery; tonsillectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy / methods
  • Airway Obstruction* / surgery
  • Child
  • Endoscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Palatine Tonsil / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / surgery
  • Tonsillectomy* / methods