Exploring the Intricate Links between Adenotonsillar Hypertrophy, Mouth Breathing, and Craniofacial Development in Children with Sleep-Disordered Breathing: Unraveling the Vicious Cycle

Children (Basel). 2023 Aug 21;10(8):1426. doi: 10.3390/children10081426.


Adenotonsillar hypertrophy has been well-acknowledged as the primary instigator of sleep-disordered breathing in the pediatric population. This condition spans a spectrum, from typical age-related growth that the immune system influences to persistent pathological hypertrophy. Reduction in air spaces, metabolic changes, neurobehavioral alterations, and chronic inflammation characterizes the latter form. As the go-to treatment, adenotonsillectomy has proven effective. However, it is not a guarantee for all patients, leaving us without reliable predictors of treatment success. Evidence suggests a connection between adenotonsillar hypertrophy and specific oral breathing patterns resulting from craniofacial development. This finding implies an intricate interdependence between the two, hinting at a self-sustaining vicious cycle that persists without proper intervention. The theories regarding the relationship between craniofacial conformation and sleep-disordered breathing have given rise to intriguing perspectives. In particular, the "gracilization theory" and the "gravitational hypothesis" have provided fascinating insights into the complex interaction between craniofacial conformation and SDB. Further investigation is crucial to unraveling the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms behind this relationship. It is also vital to explore the risk factors linked to adenotonsillectomy failure, study the long-term effects of adenotonsillar hypertrophy on craniofacial growth, and devise innovative diagnostic techniques to detect upper airway compromise early. Moreover, to assess their efficacy, we must delve into novel therapeutic approaches for cases that do not respond to traditional treatment, including positional therapy and orofacial myofunctional therapy. Though complex and unpredictable, these challenges promise to enhance our understanding and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy and its related complications in children. By taking on this task, we can pave the way for more effective and targeted interventions, ultimately improving affected individuals' well-being and quality of life.

Keywords: adenotonsillar hypertrophy; adenotonsillectomy; children; craniofacial alteration; craniofacial anomaly; craniofacial development; obstructive sleep apnea; sleep-disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.