UTSW study recommends screening for suspected obstructive sleep apnea in underweight children: Newsroom

DALLAS — Jan. 7, 2022 — Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center studied obstructive sleep apnea in a large group of children and concluded that underweight children with the condition are more likely to have reduced height, tonsillar hypertrophy and allergic rhinitis. Screening these children for suspected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could be very effective, the researchers say.

Ron Mitchell, MD, Professor of Otolaryngology, Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology

“We recommend nocturnal polysomnography for suspected OSA in symptomatic underweight children to enable timely diagnosis and treatment, particularly in children with a history of large tonsils and/or allergies,” said Ron Mitchell, MD, professor and vice chair of the Department of ENT medicine. Polysomnography is a comprehensive test that measures brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate, and respiration and is used to diagnose sleep disorders.

dr Mitchell is also the chief of pediatric ear, nose and throat medicine practicing at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. The study is published by ENT Medicine – Head and Neck Surgery.

In this study, underweight children with PSG suspected of having OSA had a median age of 6.4 years and 75% were Hispanic or black. Over 50% of them had at least 2 comorbidities, with allergies and neurological abnormalities being the most common. Overall, demographic and clinical characteristics were similar between underweight children with and without OSA. Height was negatively correlated with OSA, while tonsillar hypertrophy and allergies were predictors of OSA. No predictors of severe OSA were identified in this population.

dr Mitchell is a leading clinician and researcher in the field of pediatric respiratory disease who has devoted much of his career to unraveling the intertwined problems of OSA, large tonsils and obesity. He is studying how OSA surgery affects behavior, sleep, health and quality of life in children. dr Mitchell is the current president of the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology (ASPO) and chairs several committees, including a recent American Academy of Otolaryngology Task Force – Head and Neck Surgery that published the Clinical Practice Guideline: Tonsillectomy in Children.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved include Courtney Johnson, Taylor Leavitt, and Romaine F. Johnson.

dr Mitchell holds the William Beckner, MD, Distinguished Chair in Otolaryngology.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty is the recipient of six Nobel Prizes and includes 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,800 employees is responsible for pioneering medical advances and is committed to rapidly translating science-based research into new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians serve more than 117,000 hospitalized patients and more than 360,000 emergency department cases in approximately 80 specialties and serve nearly 3 million outpatient visits annually.

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