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Risk factors found for respiratory AEs in children following OSA surgery

Key clinical point: Researchers found three independent risk factors for perioperative respiratory complications in children undergoing surgery for obstructive sleep apnea.

Major finding: Cardiac disease linked with a 100% increased risk, airway anomaly with a 200% increase, and age below 3 years with a 300% higher risk.

Study details: A review of data from 374 children who had surgery at a single Canadian center during 2010-2016.

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


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


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.