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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994 Mar;149(3 Pt 1):715-21.

Ventilatory responses during wakefulness in children with obstructive sleep apnea.

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Division of Neonatology and Pediatric Pulmonology, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California School of Medicine 90027.


The pathophysiology of the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is not fully understood. In children, airway obstruction secondary to tonsilloadenoidal hypertrophy is the leading cause of OSAS. However, not all children with tonsilloadenoidal hypertrophy develop OSAS. Thus, other factors, including abnormalities in ventilatory control, may contribute to the etiology of OSAS. To test this, we performed polysomnography and hypercapnic and hypoxic ventilatory response testing in 20 children and adolescents with OSAS (mean age, 8 +/- 3 [SD] yr) and 19 control subjects. Only two children with OSAS were obese. Children with OSAS had an apnea index of 16 +/- 20, peak PETCO2 of 54 +/- 5 mm Hg, and SaO2 nadir of 84 +/- 13% during polysomnography. Ventilatory responses were performed by rebreathing techniques. The slope of the hypercapnic ventilatory responses, corrected for body surface area, was 1.74 +/- 0.79 L/min/m2/mm Hg PETCO2 in children with OSAS and 1.45 +/- 0.58 L/min/m2/mmHg PETCO2 in control subjects (NS). Hypoxic ventilatory responses, corrected for body surface area, were -0.94 +/- 0.49 L/min/m2/% SaO2 in children with OSAS and -0.95 +/- 0.45 L/min/m2/% SaO2 in control subjects (NS); however, the sample size was small. There was a weak inverse correlation between the slope of the hypercapnic ventilatory response and the duration of hypoventilation during polysomnography (r = -0.44, p < 0.05). We conclude that children with OSAS have normal ventilatory responses to hypercapnia, and they may have normal ventilatory responses to hypoxia. We speculate that abnormal central ventilatory drive plays little if any role in the pathogenesis of pediatric OSAS.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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