Study Objectives: To assess the effect of adenotonsillectomy for relieving obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) symptoms in children on cardiac autonomic modulation. Methods: In 354 children enrolled in the Childhood Adenotonsillectomy Trial, randomized to undergo either early adenotonsillectomy (eAT; N = 181) or a strategy of watchful waiting with supportive care (WWSC; N = 173), nocturnal heart rate control was analyzed during quiet, event-free sleep at baseline and at 7 months using overnight polysomnography (PSG). The relative frequency of patterns indicating monotonous changes in heart rate was quantified. Results: Children who underwent eAT demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in heart rate patterns postsurgery than the WWSC group. On assessing those heart rate patterns regarding normalization of clinical PSG, heart patterns were reduced to a similar level in both groups. In children whose AHI normalized spontaneously, heart rate patterns were already significantly less frequent at baseline, suggesting that upper airway obstruction was milder in this group at the outset. Conclusions: Adenotonsillectomy reduces monotonous heart rate patterns throughout quiet event-free sleep, reflecting a reduction in cardiac autonomic modulation. Heart rate pattern analysis may help quantifying the effect of OSAS on autonomic nervous system activity in children.
- autonomic control
- sleep apnea