A diagnostic approach to suspected obstructive sleep apnea in children

J Pediatr. 1984 Jul;105(1):10-4. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(84)80348-0.


Most children with obstructive sleep apnea will benefit from tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. Although polygraphic monitoring remains the definitive diagnostic technique, we wondered if all children suspected of having OSA require such evaluation. We therefore administered a standardized questionnaire to the parents of 23 children with polygraphically proved OSA related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy, 46 age- and sex-matched normal children, and 23 children subsequently referred because of possible OSA. Significantly increased frequencies of the following symptoms were found in the OSA group compared with the control group: difficulty breathing during sleep, 96% vs 2%; apnea observed by the parents, 78% vs 5%; snoring, 96% vs 9%; restless sleep, 78% vs 23%; chronic rhinorrhea, 61% vs 11%; and mouth breathing when awake, 87% vs 18%. Using discriminant analysis, an OSA score was derived that correctly classified all control subjects and 22 of 23 patients with OSA. Considering the data from all groups, we found that (1) OSA scores greater than 3.5 were highly predictive of OSA requiring adenotonsillectomy; (2) no child with an OSA score less than -1 had OSA; and (3) in children with OSA scores between -1 and 3.5, polygraphic monitoring was required to determine the severity of sleep-related airway obstruction and the need for surgical treatment. Use of the OSA score should decrease the need for polygraphic monitoring and facilitate selection of children for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoids / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Infant
  • Mouth Breathing
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Sleep Stages
  • Snoring
  • Surveys and Questionnaires