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Tonsillectomy to Fix Child Sleep Disorder: March 29, 2012

There was a time when having your tonsils removed seemed like a childhood rite of passage.

“We went through a time years ago where everybody got their tonsils out very quickly,” says Dr. Daniel McKenna, an otolaryngologist with the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

It eliminated frequent bouts of tonsillitis, which used to be the top cause for a tonsillectomy, but not anymore.

“The number one reason we take tonsils and adenoids these days is obstruction, of either the airway where you’re not breathing properly, snoring, potentially maybe holding your breath and gasping for air at night, which would be obstructive sleep apnea,” says Dr. McKenna.

Doctors are becoming more alert in detecting children with sleep disorder. In particular sleep apnea, which causes the child to briefly stop breathing during the night.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is common in the pediatric population,” says Dr. Jose Colon, a pediatric sleep specialist with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Parents who find their child is a restless sleeper who frequently gasps during the night, may suspect a disorder, but need testing to be sure.

“The way that we do this is that we do an overnight sleep study, a routine sleep study to make sure there is not an obstructive sleep apnea or some other type of sleep disorder,” says Dr. Colon.

“And if you have a positive sleep study then you’re going to get your tonsils and adenoids out. That’s the first step in the treatment,” says Dr. McKenna.

Having the tonsils removed fixes the vast majority of cases and allows children and parents to rest easy.