Chiari malformation type I (CM-I) involves the herniation of the cerebellar tonsils through the foramen magnum. CM-I is associated with both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA) in children. The primary management of symptomatic CM-I remains surgical decompression. There is, however, a paucity of data evaluating the efficacy of decompression surgery on outcomes related to sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). The objective of this study was to evaluate SDB outcomes, specifically the need for respiratory support following decompression in pediatric patients with CM-I.
This was a retrospective chart review of all children diagnosed with CM-I when younger than 18 years of age who had polysomnography (PSG) studies pre- and postsurgery, between January 2008 and October 2018 at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Patient demographics, symptoms, PSG data, ongoing respiratory support, and surgical notes were recorded. Differences in PSG studies obtained pre- and postsurgery were compared using the Wilcoxon test for paired samples.
A total of 15 children with 15 interventions met inclusion criteria with pre- and postsurgery PSG studies and were considered for statistical analysis. Of the 15 subjects included for analysis, preoperative OSA was present in 2 (13.3%), CSA in 5 (33.3%), mixed SDB (both OSA and CSA) in 4 (26.7%), and no significant SDB in 4 (26.7%). Postoperatively, OSA was present in 3 (20.0%), CSA in 4 (26.7%), mixed SDB in 0 (0%), and no significant SDB in 8 (53.3%). The presence of severe OSA decreased from 4/15 (26.7%) to 2/15 (13.3%) postoperatively, and severe CSA decreased from 5/15 (33.3%) to 2/15 (13.3%) postoperatively. Following decompression surgery, 7/15 subjects (46.7%) required positive airway pressure for management of their SDB. Overall, significant improvements were observed in a number of respiratory parameters following decompression including the following: the total apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) (17.5 ± 48.2 vs 6.1 ± 32.7 events/hour; p = 0.001), obstructive AHI (2.1 ± 16.1 vs 1.0 ± 6.6 events/hour; p = 0.005), central AHI (6.3 ± 48.9 vs 2.7 ± 33.0 events/hour; p = 0.005), and the desaturation index (16.7 ± 49.6 vs 3.8 ± 25.3; p = 0.001).
Although decompression surgery led to a significant reduction in obstructive and central events, many children continued to have persistent SDB and required additional positive airway pressure therapy. This information is important and relevant for anticipatory guidance around decompression surgery and the necessity for respiratory support for the management of SDB in pediatric patients with CM-I.