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American Academy of Sleep Medicine 
  

 
 

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Child Sleep Apnea  - Diagnosis  & Treatment


Diagnosis


This is a serious disorder that needs to be treated by a sleep specialist. These doctors have training and expertise in this area. Schedule an appointment at an accredited sleep disorders center. Some centers specialize in helping children. A sleep specialist will review your child’s history and symptoms. If needed, the doctor will schedule your child for an overnight sleep study. This kind of study is called a polysomnogram. It is the best way to evaluate your child’s sleep. With the results of this study the doctor will be able to develop an individual treatment plan for your child.

It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing your child’s sleep problems. A sleep specialist can look for other conditions that may imitate the symptoms of OSA or make them worse. These include:
  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse
Describe the problems you have observed and when you first noticed them. Let the doctor know if your child recently gained a lot of weight. Provide the doctor with your child’s complete medical history.

If your doctor thinks that your child has a problem with breathing during sleep, then your child may need an overnight sleep study. This study is called a polysomnogram. It charts your child’s brain waves, heartbeat, and breathing during sleep. It also records arm and leg movements. The sleep study will reveal if your child has OSA. It also will show the severity of the problem. The study requires your child to spend the night at the sleep center. A parent or guardian also will need to stay at the sleep center with the child. In rare cases a doctor may use another test to evaluate your child’s upper airway. Examples include endoscopy and magnetic resonance imaging.
 

Treatment

  1. Adenotonsillectomy is the most common treatment for OSA in children. This surgery involves the removal of the adenoids and tonsils. It reduces the obstruction and increases the size of the upper airway. As a result the child is able to breathe normally. Some children may continue to have OSA even after adenotonsillectomy.
  2. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is another treatment option for children. It may be used if surgery is not an option or if OSA persists after surgery. CPAP delivers a steady stream of air through a mask worn over the nose or face. The air gently blows into the back of the throat. This keeps the airway open so your child is able to breathe during sleep.
  3. Overweight or obese children will benefit from weight loss. This can reduce the frequency and severity of OSA. Usually weight loss is combined with another treatment option.
  4. Some children may benefit from wearing an oral appliance during sleep. An oral appliance is about the size of a sports mouth guard. It moves the jaw forward to keep the airway open. The effectiveness of this treatment in children is still being studied. A sleep specialist at an accredited sleep disorders center can determine which treatment option is best for your child.