What is childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Feb 13, 2019
  • Author: Mary E Cataletto, MD; Chief Editor: Denise Serebrisky, MD  more...
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Childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome is characterized by episodic upper airway obstruction that occurs during sleep. The airway obstruction may be complete or partial. Three major components of obstructive sleep apnea have been identified: episodic hypoxia, intermittent hypercapnia, and sleep fragmentation. Habitual snoring without obstructive sleep apnea is more common and may also lead to sleep fragmentation. Both primary snoring and obstructive sleep apnea have been associated with poor quality of life and increased health care use in children.

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome was described more than a century ago, but obstructive sleep apnea in children was first described in the 1970s. It is a common but underdiagnosed condition in children that may ultimately lead to substantial morbidity if left untreated.

The mechanisms of obstruction, adverse effects of obstructive sleep apnea, diagnostic criteria, and recommended treatment options are different in children from those in adults (see the image below). Important recent advances in the understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of obstructive sleep apnea in children have been coupled with improved approaches to the diagnosis and management of obstructive sleep apnea.

Go to Obstructive Sleep Apnea for complete information on this topic.

Medical complications associated with obstructive Medical complications associated with obstructive sleep apnea in children.

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