Can Sleep Apnea Surgery Cure Childhood Asthma?

Childhood asthma is a growing problem, especially among kids in urban environments. While the causes of this epidemic are being actively researched, treatments have recently come to light. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, has been shown to be associated with many respiratory issues, including snoring and asthma. Recent research has shown that surgery used to correct this condition can also improve asthma in kids.

The Study

The research in question is in the form of a study out of the University of Chicago. Researchers studied over 13,500 children afflicted with asthma. These subjects underwent surgery to treat the condition over a seven-year period from 2003 through 2010. Certain outcomes were compared to incidents and medications taken up to a year before this adenotonsillectomy surgery. Outcomes observed were:

  • Acute asthma exacerbation
  • Frequency of emergency room visits related to asthma
  • Acute status asthmaticus
  • Temporal changes in the prescription of asthma-related medications

Findings

The study’s results were encouraging. The authors discovered that within the first year following the surgery, hospitalizations related to the condition decreased by 36%. Emergency room visits due to asthma conditions went down 26%. For those patients with acute status asthmaticus, their episodes dropped by a full 38% while those with acute asthma exacerbation showed a 30% drop in incidents.

By contrast, those children in a control group who did not receive the surgery showed no notable or major change in symptoms or condition for the better or worse.

A New Treatment

Investigators strongly believe that their study focuses on this surgery as a viable and effective treatment for asthma in children. Further, it identified obstructive sleep apnea as a major factor in contributing to and aggravating asthmatic symptoms. This is great news to those afflicted with this ailment and a sign of hope.

Eliminating Apnea

Further, the study authors feel that the study may lend weight to methods for early diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. As a result, surgeons will have an easier time advocating for surgery as a treatment for the condition.

In the end, it is hoped that science can wipe out breathing problems associated with sleep disorders, and seriously reduce incidents of asthma as well as decreasing the reliance of asthmatic children on medication.

A Long Road Ahead

Researchers are quick to point out that this study is the beginning of new treatment, not the end. Further research has to be conducted to confirm findings, followed by studies to work out guidelines for applying the findings effectively.

Among those guidelines that need to be crafted are those to identify an at-risk population of children where sleep apnea is concerned, and to pinpoint those subjects who are most likely to benefit from the surgical treatment.

What do you think about this potential treatment? Is it a hopeful sign, or is it unnecessarily putting children through potentially dangerous surgery? If you would like to contribute to the discussion, please leave a comment. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the issue!

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