Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) affects 1%-3% of children. Children with OSA can present for all types of surgical and diagnostic procedures requiring anesthesia, with adenotonsillectomy being the most common surgical treatment for OSA in the pediatric age group. Thus, it is imperative that the anesthesiologist be familiar with the potential anesthetic complications and immediate postoperative problems associated with OSA. The significant implications that the presence of OSA imposes on perioperative care have been recognized by national medical professional societies. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a clinical practice guideline for pediatric OSA in 2002, and cited an increased risk of anesthetic complications, though specific anesthetic issues were not addressed. In 2006, the American Society of Anesthesiologists published a practice guideline for perioperative management of patients with OSA that noted the pediatric-related risk factor of obesity, and the increased perioperative risk associated with adenotonsillectomy in children younger than 3 yr. However, management of OSA in children younger than 1 yr-of-age was excluded from the guideline, as were other issues related specifically to the pediatric patient. Hence, many questions remain regarding the perioperative care of the child with OSA.
In this review, we examine the literature on pediatric OSA, discuss its pathophysiology, current treatment options, and recognized approaches to perioperative management of these young and potentially high-risk patients.