Sleep and breathing on the first night after adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea

G. M. Nixon, A. S. Kermack, C. D. McGregor, G. M. Davis, J. J. Manoukian, K. A. Brown, R. T. Brouillette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Adenotonsillectomy (T&A) has established effectiveness for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, more than 20% of children with OSA have respiratory compromise requiring medical intervention in the postoperative period. The reasons for this complication are not well-defined. We aimed to compare the nature and severity of sleep-disordered breathing in children with mild and severe OSA on the first night following adenotonsillectomy. Ten children were classified into groups of mild and severe OSA, based on preoperative testing. On the first night after T&A, they underwent polysomnography including electroencephalograph, submental electromyography, bilateral electro-oculograms, monitoring of respiratory movements, heart rate, ECG, and oxygen saturation. Sleep-disordered breathing was assessed by the apnea-hypopnea index, the SaO2 nadir, and the desaturation index, including dips in saturation below 90% (DI90). Sleep quality was assessed by sleep efficiency, time spent in each sleep state, and respiratory arousal index. Obstructive events occurred postoperatively in all children, but were more frequent in those with severe OSA preoperatively: the median (interquartile range) mixed/obstructive apnea/hypopnea indicies were 6.9 (2.2-9.8) events/hr and 21.5 (15.1-112.1) events/hr for the mild OSA group and the severe OSA group, respectively (P=0.009). Obstructive events were the major cause of desaturation during sleep postoperatively. Sleep quality was severely disrupted in both groups, with reductions in both slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. In conclusion, despite removal of obstructing lymphoid tissue, upper airway obstruction occurred on the first postoperative night in children with OSA. This study is the first to demonstrate the mechanism of respiratory compromise after adenotonsillectomy, a common postoperative complication in children with severe OSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-338
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric pulmonology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenotonsillectomy
  • Child
  • Complications
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Oximetry
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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