Taking out Tonsils for Kids' Hearts

High blood pressure risk in children with sleep apnea reduced

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Hey, kids! Do you want to eat ice cream for a week and protect your heart health? Well, research shows that getting your tonsils removed might let you do just that.

Kids with enlarged tonsils and adenoids have a high risk of getting sleep apnea - a breathing problem that can raise blood pressure in both children and adults. Researchers found that taking out enlarged tonsils and adenoids may protect children with sleep apnea from high blood pressure and the heart damage that can be caused by it.

"A simple surgery can protect children from sleep apnea."

Researchers already knew that children with sleep apnea are more likely to have high blood pressure than children without sleep apnea. However, this study was the first to look at how treating sleep apnea can affect the blood pressure of children who are otherwise healthy.

According to Lisa Burns, M.D., from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study, these findings highlight the importance of treating sleep apnea before it leads to high blood pressure and heart damage.

Dr. Burns notes that it is especially important to treat high blood pressure in childhood because children with high blood pressure often grow up to be adults with the same problem. Adults with high blood pressure face a high risk of dangerous heart problems like heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

This study's findings show that doctors may be able to prevent heart disease in childhood and adulthood if they treat sleep apnea at an earlier age.

The Study

  • Researchers studied 115 children with obstructive sleep apnea
  • The children were between 7 and 13 years of age
  • Participants' level of obstructive sleep apnea was measured using polysomnography, a test that measures breathing while people sleep
  • 28 participants had mild obstructive sleep apnea, 27 had severe obstructive sleep apnea, and 60 were healthy control subjects
  • All of the participants with obstructive sleep apnea went through adenotonsillectomy - a surgery to remove enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Participants' blood pressure, levels of rest and activity, and heart size were measured when the study began, 12 months after the study, and 24 months after the study
  • After adenotonsillectomy, sleep-time blood pressure decreased compared to blood pressure at the beginning of the study
  • Adenotonsillectomy also restored the normal decrease in blood pressure that happens during the night compared to the day
  • In children with moderate to severe sleep apnea, heart size decreased after adenotonsillectomy 
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 17, 2011
Last Updated:
May 18, 2011