The Efficacy of Adenotonsillectomy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children with Down Syndrome: A Systematic Review

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Determine the efficacy of adenotonsillectomy in children with Down syndrome.

Data Sources

Databases included PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Google Scholar. The search was inclusive of all references available through January 5, 2017.

Review Methods

A systematic review of the medical literature addressing adenotonsillectomy in treating obstructive sleep apnea in children with Down syndrome was performed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Data were pooled using a random-effects model where possible. The quality of studies was graded using the Methodological Index for Nonrandomized Studies criteria.


Of the 957 articles screened, 5 met inclusion for the qualitative analysis and 3 met criteria for the quantitative analysis. The findings of the qualitative analysis were that adenotonsillectomy has a positive effect on children with Down syndrome but in many cases is noncurative, up to 75% need postoperative breathing support, there is a high rate of immediate postoperative airway needs, and there is no change in sleep efficiency or architecture. The articles consistently reported moderate success in improving polysomnographic parameters, and limited pooling of the data demonstrated a mean decrease of the apnea-hypopnea index by 51% (95% confidence interval [CI], 46%-55%).


A 51% reduction in the preoperative apnea-hypopnea index can be expected with the intervention of adenotonsillectomy alone in children with Down syndrome. This information is useful for counseling and managing patient and family expectations. It also serves as a reminder to clinicians to obtain a postoperative sleep study, as many of these patients will need nighttime airway support or secondary sleep surgery.

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