Analysis of intensive care admissions among paediatric obstructive sleep apnoea referrals

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The aim of this study was to identify the proportion of children referred to a paediatric tertiary referral centre who required admission to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) following surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and to establish risk factors for these admissions.


Retrospective review of case notes and the operative database was performed for all children undergoing adenotonsillectomy for sleep disordered breathing and OSA symptoms in Great Ormond Street Hospital over a 10-year period.


Overall, 1,328 children underwent adenotonsillectomy for sleep disordered breathing and OSA. The mean age was 3.1 years (standard deviation [SD]: 1.7 years). A total of 37 (2.8%) were admitted to the PICU postoperatively (mean length of PICU stay: 1.2 days, standard deviation [SD]: 0.6 days) and 282 (21.2%) required nasopharyngeal airway (nasal prong) insertion intraoperatively. The mean length of stay on the ward following surgery was 1.4 days (SD: 0.8 days). Patients with severe OSA (apnoea-hypopnoea index [AHI] >10) and ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) grade ≥3 were more likely to require postoperative PICU admission (22/37 vs 381/1,291 [p<0.001] and 29/37 vs 660/1,291 [p=0.001] respectively). Severe OSA was also more common in children who required nasal prong insertion intraoperatively (186/282 vs 217/1,046, p<0.001).


Very few children referred to a paediatric tertiary referral centre actually require PICU admission following surgery. This may be in part due to the use of a nasopharyngeal airway in patients where postoperative obstruction is anticipated. In children with severe OSA (AHI >10) and an ASA grade of ≥3, nasopharyngeal airway insertion and potential admission to the PICU should be considered.

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