Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is an effective, feasible treatment for infants with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a study.

“Positive airway pressure is a common treatment for OSA in children,” wrote Christopher Cielo, DO, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Sleep Center, and his colleagues. But the authors note that treating infants with CPAP can be more challenging because infants have less consolidated sleep, may have greater medical complexity, and have smaller faces that make mask fit, titration, and adherence difficult.

The researchers therefore compared use of CPAP for OSA on 32 infants who began the therapy before age 6 months and 102 school-age children who began the therapy between ages 5 and 10 years, all treated at a single sleep center between March 2013 and September 2018.

Only one of the infants (mean age 3 months) had obesity, compared with 37.3% of the school-age children (mean age 7.7 years), but more of the infants (50%) had a craniofacial abnormality compared with the older children (8.9%) (P less than .001).

None of the infants had had an adenotonsillectomy, whereas the majority of the older children (80.4%) had (P less than .001). Rates of neurological abnormality and genetic syndromes (including Down syndrome) were similar between the groups.

In baseline polysomnograms, infants had a higher mean obstructive apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) compared with older children (22.6 vs. 12; P less than .001) and a slightly, but significantly, lower oxygen saturation nadir (81% vs. 87%; P = .002).

Only 9.8% of the children and none of the infants used autotitrating. Similar proportions of both groups – 90.6% of infants and 93.1% of children – achieved a mean AHI below 5 with CPAP treatment, and both CPAP pressure and mean oxygen saturation nadir at final pressure were similar in both groups.

Adherence was higher in infants than in children: Infants used CPAP for at least some time for 93.3% of nights compared with children (83.4%) (P = .009), and infants used CPAP for more than 4 hours for 78.4% of nights, compared with 59.5% of nights among children (P = .04).

Barriers to adherence reported by caregivers were similar between both groups. The most common barrier was child behavior, such as crying or refusing the CPAP, which 25% of infant caregivers and 35.3% of child caregivers reported. While a higher proportion of caregivers reported a poor mask fit for infants (15.6%) than for children (10.8%), the difference was not significant (P = .47). Rates of skin irritation also did not significantly differ between the groups.

In addition to the limitations accompanying any retrospective analysis from a single center, another study limitation was the inability to account for differences in total sleep time between infants and school-age children in comparing CPAP usage.

The National Institutes of Health and the Francis Family Foundation funded the research. The authors had no disclosures.

SOURCE: Cielo CM et al. ATS 2019. Abstract A2786.