Patient Care

Establishing a Role for Polysomnography in Hospitalized Children


Clinical question: What is the role for inpatient polysomnograms for children with medical complexity?

Dr. Stubblefield

Dr. Stubblefield

Background: Sleep-disordered breathing is more common in certain pediatric populations. Children with neuromuscular disease, craniofacial or tracheobronchial malformations, or developmental delay have up to 10 times the rate of sleep-disordered breathing as compared to the general pediatric population, with a prevalence as high as 40%. It is recommended that patients with neuromuscular conditions get annual polysomnograms (PSGs). The medical complexity and requirement for nursing and respiratory care makes it challenging to obtain routine outpatient PSGs in this population. This study is the first of its kind to examine the characteristics of patients receiving inpatient PSGs and to determine the effects the findings of these studies had on the patients’ care.

Study design: Retrospective case series.

Setting: Single, large, academic medical center.

Synopsis: Eight-five PSGs were completed on 70 patients during the study period. These occurred primarily in the pediatric intensive care unit (50 patients) but also in the neonatal intensive care unit (five patients) and the general pediatric floor (15 patients). The mean age of patients was 6.5 years, and 60% were male.

The most common diagnoses in this group were airway obstruction due to craniofacial abnormalities or defects of the tracheobronchial tree (54%), chronic respiratory failure (34%), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (23%), and genetic syndromes (14%). All sleep studies were successfully completed using the center’s dedicated sleep technicians and PSG scoring staff. There were no complications associated with the PSGs.

The most common specific indications for obtaining the PSGs were chronic pulmonary failure with airway obstruction and ventilator requirement assessment. Eighty-nine percent of patients had some abnormality of their PSG. Obstructive sleep apnea, tachypnea and desaturation, and disorders of sleep architecture were the most commonly found abnormalities.

The most common interventions based upon the PSG results were adjustment of ventilator parameters (46%), ENT referral for upper airway assessment (31%), and initiation of positive pressure ventilation (CPAP or BiPAP, 25%). Follow-up PSGs after these interventions demonstrated statistically significant improvement in apnea-hypopnea index, arousal index, and lowest oxygen saturation.

Bottom line: Inpatient PSGs for children with medical complexity are safe and often have significant findings that alter care for the patient.

Citation: Tkachenko N, Singh K, Abreu N, et al. Establishing a role for polysomnography in hospitalized children. Pediatr Neurol. 2016;57:39-45.e1. doi:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2015.12.020.

Dr. Stubblefield is a pediatric hospitalist at Nemours/Alfred I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and assistant professor of pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

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