Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Sleep apnea is normally associated with adults, but children can have it as well.
It can leave them gasping for air and never getting a good night’s sleep, but there is a procedure that can help.
Daniel, 2, recently underwent surgery for his sleep apnea. He developed it when he was less than 1-year-old.
As with adult apnea, it’s usually characterized by snoring.
Daniel’s mom said he virtually never got a good night’s sleep, which made him cranky.
His difficulty breathing at night could be scary.
“You feel helpless. You can’t do anything. It’s terrifying and that’s how you know you have to do something,” Daniel’s mom said.
Also, as in adults, childhood sleep apnea can lead to other problems, including hyperactive behavior, decreased school performance, even high blood pressure.
Children with sleep apnea usually have large tonsils that block their airway when they lay down.
A tonsillectomy takes care of the problem, but it is surgery with a small risk of bleeding and infection.
Of course, the child will have a sore throat for a while after the operation.
Some parents opt for a partial tonsillectomy, which leaves about 10 percent of the tonsils behind.
Because sensitive throat muscles aren’t left exposed, recovery is much easier than with a complete tonsillectomy.
“In our experience, children have surgery on Wednesday and are back in school by Monday,” Dr. Max April said.
Daniel came through with flying colors.
“I could tell the second they handed him to me after they did the surgery, the breathing sounded completely different,” she said. “I feel like we’ve given him a gift of being able to be rested and get real sleep,”