Adenoid size is related to severity but not the number of episodes of obstructive apnea in children

J Pediatr. 1998 Apr;132(4):682-6. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(98)70360-9.


Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the extent to which adenotonsillar hypertrophy contributes to the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children.

Study design: Thirty-three consecutive children who were referred to a sleep disorders center for evaluation of suspected OSA had standard lateral neck roentgenography performed. Adenoid size was determined by measuring the adenoidal-nasopharyngeal (AN) ratio. Tonsil size was quantitated on physical examination. The severity of OSA was determined by full-night polysomnography in the sleep laboratory.

Results: All of the patients reported snoring with trouble breathing, apneas, or both problems witnessed by a parent. The patients' respiratory disturbance index ranged from 0 to 95.3 (mean +/- SD 12.5 +/- 9.1). The patients' AN ratio ranged from 0.48 to 0.98 (0.76 +/- 0.14); 30 (91%) of the 33 patients had AN ratios greater than published normal means, and 16 (48%) had AN ratios more than 2 standard deviations above published means. Although the AN ratio and tonsil size did not predict the number of apneas, a significant relationship was seen between the AN ratio and the duration of obstructive apneas (r = 0.48, p < 0.01). Obesity (percent ideal body weight) was the only independent predictor for the number of respiratory events per hour of sleep (r = 0.49, p < 0.01). Percent ideal body weight was also the major predictor of the lowest oxyhemoglobin saturation (r = -0.58, p < 0.0001), but the AN ratio also contributed to the variance in saturation, with a correlation coefficient (r) of 0.69 for the two factors (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Lymphoid hyperplasia affects the severity of apnea more than the number of obstructive apneas. The pathophysiologic characteristics of OSA in children probably involve complex interactions between pharyngeal size and mechanics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoids / pathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / complications
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology