Premature Babies Might Be More Susceptible To Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A new study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that premature babies were more susceptible to having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), reported RadioAllen. About 1 in 10 newborns have narrow upper-airways from lowered nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal volumes, which can lead to OSA.
Obstructive sleep apnea is commonly diagnosed by a clinician performing a bronchoscopy. During this procedure, an instrument is inserted in the airway, but this can affect resistance and pressure within the airway. This invasive process isn’t the best way to test newborns, so instead the Children’s National Health System team created a potential alternative using an MRI. An MRI scan would give doctors a less intrusive way to look at the upper airways and conclude if the baby was vulnerable to obstructive sleep apnea, and they could do it all while protecting the baby from any radiation.

From this, the research team was apply to conduct a study of 96 infants with existing medical conditions and pull together airway measures. Out of the infants, about 47 were premature. Of those premature babies, MRIs were taken at 1.7 weeks and they were able to study the nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharnyx, adenoids, and the tonsils. Results were clear that premature babies had significantly lower nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal volumes compared to full-term babies. Nasopharyngeal volumes were more than double that of a premature baby, and oropharyngeal volumes were about 40% higher.

While these results are very telling, the research team wants to conduct more studies with larger groups of infants to see if there is indeed direct correlation from premature babies with narrow airways to the development of OSA later on in their lives. The usage of MRI technology to do their study and find answers was a success, and they hope to continue to be able to rely on this technology to help diagnose infants with OSA earlier on.

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