Inflammation and Sleep Disordered Breathing in Children:: A State-of-the-Art Review

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Abstract

Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) represents a spectrum of breathing disorders, ranging from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), that disrupt nocturnal respiration and sleep architecture. OSAS is a common disorder in children, with a prevalence of 2-3%. It is associated with neurobehavioral, cognitive, and cardiovascular morbidities. In children, adenotonsillectomy is the first choice for treatment and is reserved for moderate to severe OSAS, as defined by an overnight polysomnography. In adults, OSAS is the result of mechanical dysfunction of the upper airway, manifesting as severity-dependent nasal, oropharyngeal, and systemic inflammation that decrease after continuous positive airway pressure therapy. Inflammatory changes have been reported in upper airway samples from children with OSAS, and systemic inflammation, as indicated by high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels, has been shown to decrease in children with OSAS after adenotonsillectomy. Anti-inflammatory treatments for children with mild OSAS are associated with major improvements in symptoms, polysomnographic respiratory values, and radiologic measures of adenoid size. Inflammation is correlated to some extent with OSAS-related neurocognitive morbidity, but the role of inflammatory markers in the diagnosis and management of OSAS, and the role of anti-inflammatory treatments, remains to be clarified. This review examines the role of inflammation in the pathophysiology of sleep-disordered breathing in pediatric patients and the potential therapeutic implications.

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