Surgical Treatment of Sleep Apnea May Improve Asthma in Adolescents

There may be a link between obstructive sleep apnea and asthma in adolescents according to recent research coming from the University of Chicago. One study, led by Dr. Rakesh Bhattacharjee, assistant professor of pediatrics, was published in November’s PLOS Medicine.

The study looked at children suffering from obstructive sleep apnea whose tonsils and adenoids had been removed. Although this is considered a standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, 30% of those children actually displayed a decrease in acute asthma exacerbations. Furthermore, there was a 38% decline in severe asthma episodes—asthmaticus—in the children studied.

Obstructive sleep apnea and asthma are both inflammatory diseases, and severe obstructive sleep apnea is often associated with poorly controlled asthma. Additionally, both diseases share risk factors such as allergies, obesity, and exposure to tobacco smoke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, asthma affects an estimated 7.1 million children and obstructive sleep apnea affects an estimated 2-3% of all children.

Additionally, asthma is the third-most common cause of hospitalization of US children younger than age 15. The researchers of the study found that children who’d received surgery to remove their adenoids and tonsils had a 36% reduction is asthma-related hospitalizations and a 26% decline in asthma-related ER visits, whereas children who did not undergo the adenotosillectomy showed no notable reductions in either category.

The study found that the amount of children with acute status asthmaticus dropped almost 40% while the episodes in children who did not have the surgery only decreased about 7%. Acute asthma exacerbations declined 30% following the surgery, but declined only 2% in those who did not have the surgery.

Dr. Bhattacharjee thinks this research will support surgical intervention as a way to decrease medication use in asthmatic children as well as reduce the overall severity of their asthma when it has previously been used only as therapy for sleep-disordered breathing. Prescription refills decreased in children who’d undergone the surgery and there was a sizeable decrease in incidents of secondary asthma-related consequences like wheezing and acute bronchospasm.

For more information about obstructive sleep apnea or the ways in which FusionSleep can help you, schedule an appointment with our sleep specialists. We’re here to help you and your family sleep better.