Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sibling Risk for Sleep Apnea in Children

A study in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep examined obstructive sleep apnea among siblings; it found a high “sibling risk” of OSA in both boys and girls.

The study group consisted of siblings born between 1978 and 1986; follow-up data were gathered from 1997 to 2004. Hospital records were analyzed for the entire pediatric population in Sweden – 2.7 million children.

Children 18 years of age and younger were divided into sibling groups. The study determined which children had a hospital diagnosis of OSA during the follow-up period. Then children were noted as positive for sibling OSA if a brother or sister also had the disorder.

Results found a high risk of OSA in boys and girls who had at least one sibling with OSA. The standardized incidence ratio was 33.2 in boys and 40.5 in girls. A total of 854 boys and 627 girls were diagnosed with sleep apnea during the study period.

The study also examined the sibling risk of having enlarged
tonsils and adenoids; this is an important risk factor for sleep apnea in children. The familial risk was elevated; but it wasn’t as high as in the group with OSA. The standardized incidence ratio was 4.53 for boys and 4.94 for girls.

But the problem was much more common than OSA; 13,656 boys and 11,648 girls were diagnosed with enlarged tonsils and adenoids during the study.

The authors report that these sibling risks could have a genetic or environmental basis. In either case, both parents and doctors should be aware of the sibling risk of OSA.

“Early diagnosis and treatment is important to avoid complications,” study author Dr. Danielle Friberg told the AASM.

The AASM reports that OSA can slow a child’s growth rate in early childhood. Cognitive and behavioral problems also are common in children with OSA.

Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea in children on

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