May 21, 2013

T&A Helps with Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea (But Watchful Monitoring OK Too!)

Researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine that removal of the tonsils and adenoids absolutely helps with sleep apnea in kids along with improvements in behavior, quality-of-life, overall well-being as well as significantly greater reduction in symptoms... but apparently putting off surgery does no significant harm as well from a purely cognitive perspective.

464 children ages 5-9 years of age were randomly split into surgery or watchful monitoring groups (children with severe sleep apnea was excluded from the study). Although surgery helped in all measures tested, what surprised the researchers was that nearly half the children (46%) in the watchful monitoring group also spontaneous improved over a 7 month period of time without surgery. Furthermore, there was no difference between groups on a Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment.

Overall, surgery WAS beneficial, but it is notable that even without surgery, cognitive development was found to be no different than not doing surgery and nearly half improved to point surgery was no longer clinically indicated.

More relevant to clinicians and parents... what were the exact factors that led nearly 50% of kids with sleep apnea to improve over 7 months?

Was it a certain medication? Overall head growth? Treatment of allergies?

If there WAS an intervention, can it be replicated to all kids as something to try prior to surgical consideration?

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

A Randomized Trial of Adenotonsillectomy for Childhood Sleep Apnea. May 21, 2013 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1215881
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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