Approximately one to three percent of children are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition can cause growth problems and delay development. Symptoms include snoring, difficulty breathing when asleep, and sleep disturbance. Sometimes parents notice the child becomes completely obstructed despite struggling to breathe. Once diagnosed, OSA in children can usually be treated by removing the tonsils and adenoids. The diagnosis of this condition usually requires a detailed evaluation and a considerable waiting time. However, clinicians at the Montreal Children's Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) have identified a method to detect the worst cases of OSA and fast-track these patients for operative treatment. Using pulse oximetry, dips in blood oxygen levels associated with sleep-related airway blockage are used to prioritize children needing urgent treatment.
Dr. Robert Brouillette, MUHC pediatrician and professor of Pediatrics at McGill University said, "This new method of diagnosing sleep apnea and of prioritizing treatment schedules is a significant advance. Now we can detect, treat and cure the worst cases of sleep apnea in just a few days where previously children had to wait months, if diagnostic facilities were even available."
These findings are published in the January issue of Pediatrics (vol 113, #1, e19-e25) and are currently available online at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/current.shtml.