A Parent’s Guide to Sleep Apnea in Children

Getting a Diagnosis about Sleep Apnea in Children

Getting a Diagnosis

It’s best to have the child tested for sleep apnea as soon as symptoms start to appear. A polysomnogram is the best diagnostic tool for diagnosing or ruling out sleep apnea. Pediatric polysomnograms work similarly to adult polysomnograms. The challenge is getting the child to fully cooperate. Some polysomnographic sleep technologists wait for their pediatric patients to doze off before putting the leads in to make sure they’re not going to pull them off. Preparing the child for a polysomnogram will greatly help in getting the right diagnosis. Constantly assure them that their parents are with them all the way to ease their anxiety.

When is Treatment Warranted?

Unlike for adult obstructive sleep apnea, there are no universally accepted guidelines for determining whether or not sleep apnea in children is severe enough to warrant medical or surgical treatment. Children rarely experience obstructive sleep apnea events, which are used in adults to measure severity. Currently, most pediatric sleep specialists categorize an apnea index (AI) of greater than 1 or an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 1.5 as abnormal. Treatment is prescribed for children with AI of more than 5. For children 12 years of age or younger with AHI of 5 to 10 or more, decision to treat is definite.