Diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

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's campus in Minnesota. A sleep study (polysomnogram) uses sensors applied to the surface of the body to record brain wave activity, breathing patterns, snoring, oxygen levels, heart rate and muscle activity while your child sleeps.
  • Oximetry. If doctors strongly suspect obstructive sleep apnea, and a full polysomnogram is not needed, 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 have 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.


Treatment at Mayo Clinic

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 airway irritation and congestion.
  • Medications. Topical nasal steroids, such as fluticasone (Flonase) and budesonide (Rhinocort), may ease sleep apnea symptoms for some children. For kids with allergies, montelukast (Singulair) may help relieve your child's symptoms when used alone, or in combination with nasal steroids.
  • 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. An adenotonsillectomy (ad-uh-no-ton-sil-EK-tuh-me) may improve your child's obstructive sleep apnea by opening up the airway. Other forms of upper airway surgery may 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 may provide you and your child with diet and nutrition information, or refer your child to other specialists with expertise in managing obesity.
  • Oral appliances. Oral appliances, such as dental devices or mouthpieces, move your child's bottom jaw and tongue forward to keep your child's upper airway open. Mayo Clinic dental specialists have experience developing oral appliances to treat sleep apnea. Only some children benefit from such devices.

Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea care at Mayo Clinic

Sept. 24, 2015
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