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Study Reveals Surgery May Improve Sleep Apnea in Children

Surgery might be a successful longterm alternative for treating sleep apnea. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Surgery might be a successful longterm alternative for treating sleep apnea. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

The most common treatment used to help those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is supportive therapy during sleep with a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine.  While this treatment can be very effective at treating the condition and alleviating the symptoms, it can be difficult to get those with the condition to use the machines, especially with children who have sleep apnea.  But the short and long term effects of sleep apnea can be severe which means it is imperative the additional treatment options are developed, tested, and put to use.

A study conducted earlier this year was part of the effort to seek alternative options for long term management of sleep apnea in children.  The project, called The Childhood Adenotonsillectomy Trial (CHAT), involved a team of researchers from different medical facilities.  The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and were presented at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society this year.


The CHAT study looked at 464 children between the ages of 5 and 9 who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.  The purpose of the study was to determine if Adenotonsillectomy (AT), a common surgery used to treat sleep apnea in children, produced more beneficial outcomes than those outcomes achieved with supportive therapies like CPAP.


The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups.  The first group underwent the AT surgery.  The second group received supportive care.  Each participant underwent a sleep study at an outpatient sleep center at the beginning of the study and then again seven months after surgery or the start of treatment.


Children with sleep apnea can experience a variety of problems that affect their overall quality of life and their ability to learn and thrive in school.  These problems can include behavioral issues, activity level, problems with attention, and executive functioning.  In order to gauge whether or not the outcomes of surgical intervention were more beneficial than those achieved with supportive therapy, additional data about each participant was collected.


To determine if there were differences in attention span and executive functioning, each participant was given a formal neuropsychological test called the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment.  The data from this assessment was the primary output of the study.  Analysis of these data indicated that there was no difference in the attention level or executive function of those children who underwent the surgery when compared to those who received supportive therapy.


In addition to the formal assessment, data was also collected for each participant by having parents and teachers complete questionnaires rating the participating child’s sleepiness, behavior, and quality of life.  These results indicate that children who have the surgery, which removes their adenoids and tonsils, experience noteworthy improvements in their behavior and overall quality of life when compared with the results of those participating children who did not have surgery.


The survey indicates that while there may be some benefits to having the surgery, there isn’t an overwhelming reason to choose surgery over supportive care which can help parents make the best decision for their children.

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Steve N.

San Diego, CA

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."

Candace M.

Scottsdale, AZ

"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"

Anthea S.

Tempe, AZ