SIDS and Sleep Apnea Research

Within: Bosch Institute, Kids Research Institute

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The SIDS and Sleep Apnoea Research Group is associated with the Hospital's Sleep Disorders Unit and the David Read Laboratory at the University of Sydney. The current clinical sleep unit was established as a research facility with the assistance of the (then) National SIDS Council of Australia.

The Group's laboratory research focuses on risk factors for SIDS – nicotine exposure and intermittent hypoxia. Our clinical research focuses on the causes, complications, investigation and treatment of sleep apnoea and sleep disorders in children. At the Children's Hospital at Westmead, the Group is investigating many aspects of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in infants and children using sleep studies to document the presence and severity of OSA. We are currently placing considerable focus on determining the effectiveness of treatment interventions, which includes the use of medication, surgery or nasal mask CPAP.

Research achievements

With the support of the Australasian Sleep Trials Network, the Group has developed a multicentre Paediatric Sleep Centre collaboration across Australia. It has established the protocol to undertake a definitive study of whether adenotonsillectomy improves the IQ in children with OSA and is currently seeking funding for this project. It has been a major advance for the SIDS and Sleep Apnoea Group to be nominated is the coordinating centre for a multicentre Paediatric Research Group in Australia and marks the commencement of rigorous scientific evaluation of treatment in Paediatric Sleep Medicine through randomised trials.

A main focus of laboratory-based research at the University of Sydney is the significance of intermittent hypoxia and exposure to cigarette smoke as risk factors for SIDS. The Group has helped develop new methods to study the brain tissue of piglets and infants who died from SIDS. Other work is looking at how preeclampsia or prematurity can affect the development of the brain.

At the Children's Hospital, PhD students are responsible for several new and exciting research developments. These include providing information about how the presence of a cleft lip and/or cleft palate increases the risk for sleep-disordered breathing in infants, how this affects the development of their ventilatory control, and how this impacts on their neurocognitive development.

In the area of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the Group is studying the effectiveness of adenoidectomy, initially by questionnaire, followed by an assessment of neurocognitive outcomes with the use of sleep studies.

Where adenotonsillectomy is not adequate to treat OSA, nasal mask CPAP is used to treat the condition in children. The Group is studying how the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea interacts with obesity to influence cardiovascular function in children.