Introduction: The literature indicates that decompression of Chiari I malformations (CM-1) may resolve symptoms of sleep apnea. This study aims to identify the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea in a cohort of pediatric CM-1 patients treated at our institution. We also assessed apnea-hypopnea index and symptomatology before and after surgery to investigate if Chiari decompression is a viable treatment for sleep apnea in CM-1 patients. Improvement relative to ENT surgical intervention was also considered.
Methods: We identified 75 patients who underwent polysomnography (PSG) from our database of 465 CM-1 patients. Sleep apnea diagnosis was based on the sleep physician's overall interpretation of the PSG. Symptomatology pre- and post-surgery was analyzed.
Results: Of the 75 CM-1 patients that underwent PSG, 23 were diagnosed with sleep apnea. Sixteen had OSA, 6 had CSA, and 1 had mixed apnea. Twelve OSA patients received ENT intervention. Eight improved and 2 further improved after Chiari decompression. Of the 4 patients that did not improve, one of those later improved following Chiari decompression. Of the 6 CSA patients, 2 underwent Chiari decompression, but only one improved. The mixed apnea patient underwent several ENT interventions that did not relieve symptoms but improved following Chiari decompression.
Discussion/conclusions: Based on our results, sleep apnea in CM-1 patients may be obstructive, central, or mixed and is likely multifactorial. A multidisciplinary approach to the management of these patients is important, including neurosurgery, otolaryngology, and sleep medicine. Future prospective studies will lend further insight into this condition and its management.
Keywords: Chiari I malformation; Decompression surgery; Sleep apnea.
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