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Risk factors found for respiratory AEs in children following OSA surgery

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Well-run study leaves community-based cases unaddressed

This well-conducted, retrospective, chart-review study adds important information to the published literature about risk stratification for children in a tertiary-referral population undergoing adenotonsillectomy. Their findings indicate that younger children remain at higher risk as well as those children with complex comorbid medical disease. They also show that children with severe sleep apnea or significant oxyhemoglobin desaturation are likewise at higher risk of postoperative respiratory compromise – emphasizing the need for preoperative polysomnography – particularly in a tertiary setting where many patients have medical comorbidities.

Despite the strengths of this study in assessing perioperative risk for respiratory compromise in a referral population with highly prevalent medical comorbidities, this study does not provide significant insight into the management of otherwise healthy children in a community setting who are undergoing adenotonsillectomy. This is important because a large number of adenotonsillectomies are performed outside of a tertiary-referral center and many of these children may not have undergone preoperative polysomnography to stratify risk. The utility of preoperative polysomnography in the evaluation of all children undergoing adenotonsillectomy remains controversial, with diverging recommendations from two major U.S. medical groups.

This study does not address the utility of polysomnography in community-based populations of otherwise healthy children. It is imperative to accurately ascertain risk so perioperative planning can ensure the safety of children at higher risk following adenotonsillectomy; however, there remains a paucity of studies assessing the cost-effectiveness as well as the positive and negative predictive value of polysomnographic findings. This study highlights the need for community-based studies of otherwise healthy children undergoing adenotonsillectomy to ensure that children at risk receive appropriate monitoring in an inpatient setting whereas those at lesser risk are not unnecessarily hospitalized postoperatively.

Heidi V. Connolly, MD, and Laura E. Tomaselli, MD, are pediatric sleep medicine physicians, and Margo K. McKenna Benoit, MD, is an otolaryngologist at the University of Rochester (N.Y.). They made these comments in a commentary that accompanied the published report ( J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 Jan 15;16[1]:3-4 ). They had no disclosures.



Underlying cardiac disease, airway anomalies, and younger age each independently boosted the risk of severe perioperative respiratory adverse events (PRAE) in children undergoing adenotonsillectomy to treat obstructive sleep apnea, in a review of 374 patients treated at a single Canadian tertiary-referral center.

In contrast, the analysis failed to show independent, significant effects from any assessed polysomnography or oximetry parameters on the rate of postoperative respiratory complications. The utility of preoperative polysomnography or oximetry for risk stratification is questionable for pediatric patients scheduled to adenotonsillectomy to treat obstructive sleep apnea, wrote Sherri L. Katz, MD, of the University of Ottawa, and associates in a recent report published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, although they also added that making these assessments may be “unavoidable” because of their need for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea and determining the need for surgery.

Despite this caveat, “overall our study results highlight the need to better define the complex interaction between comorbidities, age, nocturnal respiratory events, and gas exchange abnormalities in predicting risk for PRAE” after adenotonsillectomy, the researchers wrote. These findings “are consistent with existing clinical care guidelines,” and “cardiac and craniofacial conditions have been associated with risk of postoperative complications in other studies.”

The analysis used data collected from all children aged 0-18 years who underwent polysomnography assessment followed by adenotonsillectomy at one Canadian tertiary-referral center, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, during 2010-2016. Their median age was just over 6 years, and 39 patients (10%) were younger than 3 years at the time of their surgery. More than three-quarters of the patients, 286, had at least one identified comorbidity, and nearly half had at least two comorbidities. Polysomnography identified sleep-disordered breathing in 344 of the children (92%), and diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea in 256 (68%), including 148 (43% of the full cohort) with a severe apnea-hypopnea index.

Sixty-six of the children (18%) had at least one severe PRAE that required intervention. Specifically these were either oxygen desaturations requiring intervention or need for airway or ventilatory support with interventions such as jaw thrust, oral or nasal airway placement, bag and mask ventilation, or endotracheal intubation.

A multivariate regression analysis of the measured comorbidity, polysomnography, and oximetry parameters, as well as age, identified three factors that independently linked with a statistically significant increase in the rate of severe PRAE: airway anomaly, underlying cardiac disease, and young age. Patients with an airway anomaly had a 219% increased rate of PRAE, compared with those with no anomaly; patients with underlying cardiac disease had a 109% increased rate, compared with those without cardiac disease; and patients aged younger than 3 years had a 310% higher rate of PRAE, compared with the children aged 6 years or older, while children aged 3-5 years had a 121% higher rate of PRAE, compared with older children.

The study received no commercial funding. Dr. Katz has received honoraria for speaking from Biogen that had no relevance to the study.

SOURCE: Katz SL et al. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 Jan 15;16(1):41-8.

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