A new study has shown that children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have abnormal respiratory-related evoked potentials, as compared to other children their age.
The study, led by Jingtao Huang, PhD, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, signifies that children with OSA do not perceive their airway closing to the same degree that normal children do.
The research team said that their findings may elucidate why these children do not scale protective responses to upper airway collapse, but instead go on to develop OSA.
For the study, the researchers focussed on nine children with OSAS and 12 normal controls.
The pioneering technique of respiratory-related evoked potentials was used to test upper airway perception in children with OSA. With this technique, inspiration is blocked for a fraction of a second, and the brainwave response to this occlusion is analysed.
"Normal children have certain protective neurologic responses which prevent OSA," said Carole L. Marcus, MBBCh, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, senior author of the study.
"These include increasing their airway muscle tone in response to negative pressure, and arousing in response to a breathing load or high carbon dioxide levels.
Children with OSA have blunted protective responses. They have been shown to have abnormal upper airway reflexes during sleep. Children with OSA have also been shown to have a blunted arousal response to respiratory stimuli compared to normal children, despite having normal arousals to non-respiratory stimuli," she added.
OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. This keeps air from getting into the lungs.
OSA is common in children, occurring in about two percent of young children. It can result in high blood pressure, heart problems, poor growth, and behavioural and learning abnormalities.
The study appears in the March 1 issue of the journal Sleep.