Planning adenotonsillectomy in children with obstructive sleep apnea: the role of overnight oximetry.

Gillian M. Nixon, Andrea S. Kermack, G. Michael Davis, John J. Manoukian, Karen A. Brown, Robert T. Brouillette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children is usually effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (T&A). However, there may be a waiting list for T&A, and the procedure is associated with an increased risk of postoperative complications in children with OSA. Needed is a simple test that will facilitate logical prioritization of the T&A surgical list and help to predict children who are at highest risk of postoperative complications. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a severity scoring system for overnight oximetry and to evaluate the score as a tool to prioritize the T&A surgical list. METHODS: This study comprised 3 phases. In phase 1, a severity score was developed by review of preoperative overnight oximetry in children who had urgent T&A in 1999-2000. In phase 2, the score was validated retrospectively in 155 children who had polysomnography (PSG) before T&A in 1992-1998. In a phase 3, a 12-month prospective evaluation of a protocol based on the score was conducted. RESULTS: In phase 1, a 4-level severity score was developed on the basis of the number and the depth of desaturation events (normal to severely abnormal, categories 1-4). In phase 2, the McGill oximetry score correlated with severity of OSA by PSG criteria. In phase 3, a clinical management protocol was developed based on the score. Of 230 children tested, 179 (78%) had a normal/inconclusive oximetry (category 1) and went on to have PSG. Those with a positive oximetry (categories 2-4; 22%) had no additional sleep studies before T&A. Timing of T&A was based on oximetry score, leading to a significant reduction in waiting time for surgery for those with higher oximetry scores. Postoperative respiratory complications were more common with increasing oximetry score. CONCLUSIONS: Overnight pulse oximetry can be used to estimate the severity of OSA, to shorten the diagnostic and treatment process for those with more severe disease, and to aid clinicians in prioritization of T&A and planning perioperative care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e19-25
Issue number1 Pt 1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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