"Obstructive sleep apnea has a considerable impact on children's quality of life, similar to chronic asthma or rheumatoid arthritis" says Ron Mitchell, M.D., professor of pediatric otolaryngology at Saint Louis University and the study's author.
"Our study has shown that surgery can have a profound positive effect on children's lives."
OSA affects boys and girls equally.
Approximately 2 to 4 percent of children ages 4 to 6 years old have OSA, although Mitchell
suspects the number is probably actually higher because parents don't recognize or tell doctors about the problem.
"The results of the surgery were dramatic, even for children who had persistent OSA," Mitchell
"To go from having 40 or more incidents of interrupted breathing in a night to having only five or six that is a pretty remarkable improvement in their sleep that leads to a dramatic improvement in quality of life."
Because they do not sleep soundly, OSA can negatively affect children's behavior, health, growth, attention, memory and classroom performance.
OSA has also been linked to lower childhood IQ scores.
"Not all children with sleep problems have behavioral issues before surgery, and not all behavioral problems resolve post-surgery," Dr. Mitchell
"Children who score way outside normal parameters on behavioral measures benefit the most from surgery."
Obstructive sleep apnea has become a better recognized problem among children in recent years, Mitchell
"Even though OSA resolved in the overwhelming majority of children after the surgery, it is still crucial to identify and treat children with persistent OSA," Mitchell
"Otherwise these children will continue to experience the health, behavioral and learning problems associated with OSA."
Several options for treating persistent OSA exist, including: nasal steroids, allergy treatment, additional surgery or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask.
Over time, some children who did not experience immediate resolution will normalize, Mitchell