Surgery Could Improve Asthma Control: Sleep Apnea in Children and Young Adults

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), is one of the most commonly experienced sleep disturbances in the world. This sleep disorder causes an obstruction in the airway during sleep (usually the tonsils and soft palate of the mouth). The passages close temporarily, creating a brief moment where the person stops breathing. These moments cause the person to slightly wake up, but only just enough to push enough air out to start the breathing process again. The sufferer usually never realizes they have awoken in this manner – yet they do it many times each night. The result is a person who is not getting solid rest and who fails to reach those stages of sleep that are needed for proper rest and rejuvenation. When this sleep disorder is diagnosed in children and younger adults, surgery is a possible route to stop the OSA from causing a lifetime of problems. However, this swelling of the back of the throat may also be related to asthma, another disorder that affects millions of Americans, including a large population of America’s children. The connection between breathing problems and their common source (blockage of the airway), leads to the question of whether there is a common solution to both disorders. This is a distinct possibility, as researchers studying the effects of sleep apnea surgery have concluded this surgery could improve asthma control in children and young adults.

The study took data from over 40,000 US citizens between the ages of three and seventeen. Of these children, about 13,500 had asthma and had undergone the surgery that removed their tonsils and adenoids (soft tissue at the back of the throat), as a treatment for OSA. The preliminary research concludes that the children averaged a 30 percent reduction in acute asthma triggers. Moreover, there was a nearly 40 percent decrease in the medical emergency of acute status asthmaticus (where the inability to breathe reaches the point of suffocating). It should be noted that the research is only preliminary. Thus, even though this surgery may possibly improve asthma control, more extensive studies are needed to understand the exact connection between the two disorders. This, in turn, may lead to singular or unified treatments.