Do systemic corticosteroids effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea secondary to adenotonsillar hypertrophy?

Laryngoscope. 1997 Oct;107(10):1382-7. doi: 10.1097/00005537-199710000-00017.


To determine if pediatric obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) caused by adenotonsillar hypertrophy (ATH) could be treated by a short course of systemic corticosteroids, we conducted an open-label pilot study in which standardized assessments of symptomatology, OSAS severity, and adenotonsillar size were performed before and after a 5-day course of oral prednisone, 1.1+/-0.1 (+/-SE) mg/kg per day. Outcome measures included symptom severity, adenotonsillar size, and polysomnographic measures of OSAS. Selection criteria included age from 1 to 12 years, ATH, symptomatology suggesting OSAS, an apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) > or = 3/hour, and intent to perform adenotonsillectomy. Only one of nine children showed enough improvement to avoid adenotonsillectomy. Symptomatology did not improve after corticosteroid treatment but did after removal of tonsils and adenoids. Polysomnographic indices of OSAS severity did not improve after corticosteroid treatment. After corticosteroids, tonsillar size decreased in only two patients, adenoidal size was only marginally reduced, and the size of the nasopharyngeal airway was not significantly increased. These results suggest that a short course of prednisone is ineffective in treating pediatric OSAS caused by ATH.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Adenoids / pathology*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Male
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Polysomnography
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / surgery
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisone