Background - Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) describes a spectrum of abnormal breathing patterns during sleep characterised by snoring, increased upper airway resistance and pharyngeal collapsibility, with alteration of normal oxygenation and ventilation. Intermittent desaturations during sleep have multi-organ implications. Adults with OSAS have an increased risk of developing a dysfunctional endothelium that is characterised by greater adherence of inflammatory mediators to endothelial cells and hypercoagulability. There is increasing evidence to show that risk factors for comorbid cardiovascular disease (CVD) can develop during childhood and adolescence and are likely to continue over time. Risk factors for CVD include both modifiable factors and factors that cannot be changed.
Materials and methods - Using the MEDLINE® electronic database, we reviewed the scientific literature for published studies evaluating the association between sleep-disordered breathing and cardiovascular damage in children.
Results - In this review, we show the role of blood markers in demonstrating the inflammation caused by intermitted oxygen desaturations during sleep in both healthy and obese children. Several instrumental techniques, in addition to serum biomarkers, can be used to assess vascular endothelial damage and its deterioration in the form of a pre-atherosclerotic condition. The confirmation of their role as markers of inflammation and vascular damage is supported by normalisation after resolution or improvement of the sleep-disordered breathing with surgery.
Discussion - Great attention should be given to this condition in infants and children as it will significantly affect their present and future well-being as they grow into adulthood. Healthcare professionals, especially paediatricians, should be trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of the disease in order to send children forward for specialist care in centres dealing with sleep-disordered breathing.
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