How is obstructive sleep apnoea typically diagnosed in a child?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Thank you for your question. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition in which a person "chokes" or "stops breathing" repeatedly for a short period of time during sleep. Common symptoms include:

  • Snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Feeling unrefreshed in the morning or morning headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Bed-wetting in children
  • Learning difficulties in children
  • Behavioural problems in children
  • Growth disturbance in children

OSA can occur at any age, from young children to the elderly. Common risk factors for OSA include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Having large tonsils and adenoids
  • Large tongue (at the back of the throat)
  • Small/receding chin
  • Blocked nose from nasal allergies, sinusitis or deviated nasal septum

In children, OSA can usually be diagnosed clinically with suggestive symptoms and obvious risk factors (e.g. obesity, large tonsils and adenoids). If your child is seen by an ENT Specialist, this will usually involves a thorough medical consultation, physical examination and a nasoendoscopy (relatively painless scope through the nose and throat region done in the clinic under local anaesthesia).

In cases in which the diagnosis of OSA is not clear-cut or if there are other suspected sleep disorders (e.g.sleep walking, abnormal limb movements during sleep etc), a sleep study will be the gold standard investigation. A sleep study (Polysomnogram) is an overnight study that involves the placements of wires and sensors on different parts of the body to analyse a variety of body function during sleep. It also allows the doctor to determine how many times on average the patient "chokes" or "stop breathing" in an hour. It provides important information such as the change in oxygen level in the blood and heart rate as a result of the choking episodes.

Hope this helps and all the best!

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