The cardinal symptom of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in children is loud snoring present every night regardless of the child’s sleeping position. This snoring may be interrupted by intermittent, partial, or total airway obstruction with gasping, snorting, or breathing pauses.
Snoring is present in about ten percent of children, and ten percent of these children (one percent of the pediatric population) have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder that causes breathing pauses during sleep due to the narrowing or closing of the airway.
Children who suffer from SDB are often sleep-deprived, cranky, ill-behaved, inattentive, and have low energy. SDB can cause nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) and slow growth/development. This condition may also contribute to attention deficit disorders such as ADD/ADHD.
Parents are often the first to observe their child’s sleep habits and snoring. If parents suspect SDB, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor) may need to evaluate the child. Each child should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A sleep study or surgery may be recommended.
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of SDB in children. Therefore, tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy (T&A) is the most effective treatment for SDB.
- Tonsillectomy – A surgical procedure performed to remove the tonsils
- Adenoidectomy – A surgical procedure performed to remove the adenoid glands. Adenoids are tonsil tissues that cause difficulty breathing when enlarged
According to TPMG otolaryngologist Dr. Eric Simko, T&A achieves a 90 percent success rate for childhood SDB. There are nearly 400,000 T&As performed in the United States each year, and 75 percent of those procedures treat SDB.
Understand that not every child that snores should undergo a T&A. The procedure does have possible risks and complications that your otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) will discuss with you in detail if surgery is necessary.
About Dr. Eric J. Simko, MD, FACS, FAAOA
Eric J. Simko, MD, FACS, FAAOA is a board certified otolaryngologist (ENT) practicing at TPMG Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery/ENT, and Allergy in Newport News, VA. His areas of interest include pediatric ear, nose, and throat disorders such as recurrent ear infections, sleep-disordered breathing, thyroid/parathyroid surgery, nasal and sinus problems to include allergy and the treatment of hearing loss.