Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation in Adolescents With Down Syndrome and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects up to 60% of children with Down syndrome (DS) and may persist in half of patients after adenotonsillectomy. Children with DS who have persistent OSA often do not tolerate treatment with positive pressure airway support devices or tracheotomy for their residual moderate to severe OSA. The hypoglossal nerve stimulator is an implantable device that delivers an electrical impulse to anterior branches of the hypoglossal nerve in response to respiratory variation, resulting in tongue base protrusion that alleviates upper airway obstruction in adults.


To determine whether hypoglossal nerve stimulation is safe and effective in children with DS.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Case series of the first 6 adolescents with DS to undergo hypoglossal nerve stimulator implantation. Participants were 6 children and adolescents (12-18 years) with DS and severe OSA (apnea hypopnea index [AHI] > 10 events/h) despite prior adenotonsillectomy.


Inspire hypoglossal nerve stimulator placement.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Patients were monitored for adverse events. Adherence to therapy was measured by hours of use recorded by the device. Efficacy was evaluated by comparing AHI and OSA-18, a validated quality-of-life instrument, scores at baseline and follow-up.


In 6 patients (4 male, 2 female; aged 12-18 years), hypoglossal nerve stimulator therapy was well tolerated (mean use, 5.6-10.0 h/night) and effective, resulting in significant improvement in OSA. At 6- to 12-month follow-up, patients demonstrated a 56% to 85% reduction in AHI, with an overall AHI of less than 5 events/h in 4 children and less than 10 events/h in 2 children. Children also demonstrated a clinically significant improvement (mean [SD] overall change score, 1.5 [0.6]; range, 0.9-2.3) on the OSA-18, a validated quality-of-life instrument.

Conclusions and Relevance

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation was well tolerated and effective in the study population, representing a potential therapeutic option for patients with DS and refractory OSA after adenotonsillectomy who are unable to tolerate positive pressure airway devices.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT2344108

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