Sleep Study before Surgery

My doctor recommended that my child have a tonsillectomy.  Should I have my child get a sleep study?

ABSOLUTELY!  There are several reasons to obtain a sleep study prior to tonsillectomy. 

1)     Prevention of unnecessary surgery.  Some experts have said that many tonsillectomy surgeries are unnecessary.  Just because your child snores doesn’t mean that they need their tonsils out, even if the tonsils are large.  In fact, studies suggest that large tonsil size doesn’t suggest that they have sleep apnea.   A sleep study will tell us if sleep apnea is present.  If so, the tonsils should come out.

2)     Reduction of risk following surgery.  If your child has relatively severe sleep apnea, you probably aren’t even aware of it.  The majority of kids with sleep apnea don’t stop breathing.  They will often quietly struggle all throughout the night without the “adult-type” gasping or stopping breathing.  If your child has significant sleep apnea, they will be at higher risk immediately following surgery.  A sleep study shows this severity and can help reduce your child’s post-operative risk.

3)     Determination of surgery effectiveness. Tonsillectomy doesn’t always cure sleep apnea, even if the tonsils were large.  Therefore, if your child undergoes tonsillectomy without a pre-operative sleep study, and they are found to have sleep apnea, it will never be known how improved the apnea was.  Even very mild apnea will need to be treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).  If the residual apnea is much, much better when compared to the baseline sleep study, CPAP could be avoided.

Remember, pediatric sleep apnea is not the same as adult sleep apnea.

Dr. Roy is one of only about 200 pediatric sleep specialists in the country, so be 100% sure that your child sees a pediatric sleep specialist for his or her sleep study.