Treatment of childhood obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy improves a number of important neurobehavioral outcomes, according to a new study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“In our study of 52 children and adolescents with OSAS, we observed significant improvements in neurobehavioral function after 3 months of PAP therapy,” said lead author Carole L. Marcus, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “These improvements were seen despite suboptimal adherence with treatment and were observed in a heterogeneous group of children, many with underlying medical conditions and/or developmental delays.”
The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
In the prospective study, 52 children (mean age 12±4 years) with OSAS, 10 of whom had significant developmental delays, underwent neurobehavioral assessments of sleepiness, behavioral problems, attention. and quality of life at baseline and after 3 months of PAP treatment. Adherence with PAP treatment varied widely, with an average use of 170±145 minutes per night.
PAP treatment was associated with significant improvements in attention deficits, behavior, sleepiness, and caregiver- and child-reported quality of life. Improvements in sleepiness scores, but not in other outcomes, were significantly correlated with adherence. Similar improvements in behavioral scores were seen in the subset of children with developmental delays. Among subjects younger than 7 (mean age 4.5 ±1.7 years), significant improvements were seen in sleepiness and OSAS-specific quality of life.
“OSAS in children is known to be associated with behavioral disturbances and learning deficits, but the effects of PAP therapy on these deficits have not been studied,” said Marcus. “Our study is the first to demonstrate that PAP therapy results in significant improvements in a range of neurobehavioral domains in these patients, including those with developmental delays.”
The study had several limitations, including the lack of a placebo group, the use of reports from subjects and caregivers only, and the lack of blinding.
“The improvements we observed in daytime sleepiness, attention, internalizing behaviors, and quality of life occurred despite a mean use of PAP of only 3 hours a night,” said Marcus. “This suggests that PAP use should be encouraged in children with OSAS, even in those with suboptimal adherence, as it can lead to improvements in function that can in turn affect family, social and school function.