Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that occurs when your child's breathing becomes partially or completely blocked repeatedly as your child sleeps. The condition is due to blockage of the upper airway during sleep. Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea usually differs from adult sleep apnea in several ways. For example, children often have only partially blocked airways and wake up less during sleep than do adults with sleep apnea. Problems with daytime behavior and attention span are seen in children with OSA.

  • Expertise and experience. Doctors trained in sleep medicine have expertise and experience treating children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Mayo Clinic in Minnesota offers the Center for Sleep Medicine, a sleep disorders center accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by specialists trained in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders.
  • Team approach. Doctors trained in treating children with medical conditions (pediatricians), brain and nervous system conditions (neurologists), heart and blood vessel conditions (cardiologists), lung and breathing conditions (pulmonologists), mental health conditions (psychiatrists and psychologists), and pediatric ear, nose and throat conditions (otorhinolaryngologists), as well as doctors trained in dental specialties (orthodontists and dentists) and oral and maxillofacial surgery work as a team to diagnose and treat children with sleep apnea. The multidisciplinary nature of the team allows doctors to effectively manage children with neurodevelopmental disorders including Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and cerebral palsy.
  • Research. Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers study new diagnosis and treatment options for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders and may conduct clinical trials.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for pulmonology, neurology & neurosurgery, heart & heart surgery, ear, nose & throat, and psychiatry by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals in neurology & neurosurgery, pulmonology, and heart & heart surgery.

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Doctors from the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota diagnose and treat children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

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At Mayo Clinic, doctors trained in treating children with medical conditions (pediatricians) work with doctors trained in sleep medicine and other specialists to diagnose children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

To diagnose your child's condition, your doctor will review your child's symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical examination. Because pediatric obstructive sleep apnea diagnostic tests and treatments differ from that of adults, it's important to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Your child's doctor may also order several tests to diagnose pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

Tests may include:

  • Polysomnogram. Doctors may evaluate your child's condition during an overnight sleep study at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. A sleep study (polysomnogram) uses skin sensors to record brain wave activity, breathing patterns, snoring, oxygen levels, heart rate and muscle activity while your child sleeps.
  • Oximetry. If doctors suspect obstructive sleep apnea, an overnight recording of oxygen levels in the home setting may help make the diagnosis. Sometimes the oximetry test fails to give the diagnosis, in which case your child will need to be evaluated during a polysomnogram.
  • Electrocardiogram. In an electrocardiogram, sensor patches with wires attached (electrodes) measure the electrical impulses given off by your child's heart. Doctors may use this test to determine if your child has an underlying heart condition.

Mayo Clinic doctors trained in sleep medicine work with doctors trained in treating pediatric ear, nose, and throat conditions, lung conditions, and other pediatric specialties when necessary to treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

Your doctor will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment for your child's sleep apnea. To treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Avoid airway irritants and allergens. Children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea should avoid tobacco smoke or other indoor allergens or pollutants, as they can cause congestion and airway irritation.
  • Removal of the tonsils and adenoids (adenotonsillectomy). Your doctor may refer your child to a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist to consider the removal of your child's tonsils or adenoids if they're partially or completely blocking your child's airway. An adenotonsillectomy (ad-uh-no-ton-sil-EK-tuh-me) may improve your child's pediatric obstructive sleep apnea by opening up the airway. Other forms of upper airway surgery may also be recommended, based on the child's condition.
  • Positive airway pressure therapy. In continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP), small machines gently blow air through a tube and mask attached to your child's nose, or nose and mouth. The machine sends air pressure into the back of your child's throat to keep your child's airway open. Doctors often treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea with positive airway pressure therapy.
  • Weight loss. Doctors may recommend that your child lose weight if he or she is obese, as obesity is one of the causes of breathing problems in pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Your doctor or other specialists may provide you and your child with diet and nutrition information.
  • Oral appliances. Oral appliances, such as dental devices or mouthpieces, move your child's bottom jaw and tongue to keep your child's upper airway open. Mayo Clinic dentists have experience developing oral appliances to treat sleep apnea. Only some children benefit from such devices.

Mayo Clinic doctors actively research the causes and treatment of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Researchers study the effectiveness of diagnostic tests and treatments for children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Learn more on the Center for Sleep Medicine and neurology research websites.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo doctors on pediatric sleep disorders and other sleep disorders on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nov. 20, 2012