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J Laryngol Otol. 2008 Sep;122(9):931-5. Epub 2007 Nov 30.

Physical and emotional disturbances in children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy.

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Department of Biology and Medical Genetics, Medical University, Łódź, Poland.



Enlarged tonsils and adenoids (part of Waldeyer's ring) are responsible for obstructive sleep disordered breathing. Obstructive sleep disordered breathing episodes lead to hypoxaemia, hypercapnia and a state of arousal, all of which affect normal development of the nervous system. In this study, two hypotheses were tested: (1) obstructive sleep disordered breathing is caused by adenotonsillar hypertrophy and is associated with hypoxia and brain dysfunction; and (2) children with obstructive sleep disordered breathing more commonly display emotional lability, depressive behaviour and anxiety.


A total of 225 children were examined. The study group consisted of 121 children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy (87 aged six to nine years and 34 aged 10 to 13 years) and with obstructive sleep apnoeas and hypopnoeas confirmed by polysomnography. Patients were compared with 104 children with no obstructive sleep disordered breathing and no adenotonsillar hypertrophy (74 aged six to nine years and 30 aged 10 to 13 years). The following tests were used to measure the children's emotional disorders: the children's depression inventory; the state-trait anxiety inventory for children; and the emotional instability scale. The average values and standard deviations were calculated for all results. Student's t-test was used to compare differences in all groups of children. The minimum level of p < 0.05 was set as statistically significant.


Children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy are more likely to experience poor brain development and sleep problems. They also have emotional disturbances. In the sick and healthy children aged six to nine years, mean results for the emotional instability scale were statistically significantly different in the two groups, being higher in children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy than in healthy children. Mean values for the children's depression inventory test were higher in children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy, but the differences were not statistically significant. In the state-trait anxiety inventory for children test, the mean T score was T = 1.760 and the level of significance was p = 0.08 for both groups. Since the standard level of significance was p < 0.05, the differences in mean values for the state-trait anxiety inventory for children test bordered on statistical significance. There were no differences between tests results in the older children (10 to 13 years).


Recent studies have confirmed the negative emotional effect of adenotonsillar hypertrophy induced obstructive sleep disordered breathing in children aged six to nine years. The main problems are emotional lability, and anxiety and depressive disturbances. Such emotional problems subside in older children (aged 10 to 13 years).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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