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Treatment for Childhood Disorder Brings Sleep Dangers

Growth hormones raise sleep apnea risks in children with Prader-Willi syndrome, study finds

THURSDAY, Jan. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Growth hormone treatment for Prader-Willi syndrome -- a rare condition that causes children to gorge on food -- may also trigger or worsen dangerous sleep apnea, a new study finds.

Prader-Willi syndrome compels a person to eat nonstop, often resulting in morbid obesity. Growth hormone therapy is considered one of the most effective ways to treat the disorder.

However, a University of Florida study of 25 children and adults with Prader-Willi syndrome found that growth hormone treatment can also worsen or trigger sleep apnea in obese children, which could result in death.

The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

"Every kid we studied had abnormal sleep at the beginning, before growth hormone," study lead author Dr. Jennifer Miller, assistant professor of pediatrics, said in a prepared statement.

"On growth hormone, most of them got better but not all of them. The ones that got worse tended to be school age. Some of them were just entering school and then they were coming home with upper-respiratory infections," she said.

"The combination of starting growth hormone, still having a weak muscle tone, having an illness and/or being obese tends to put you at risk for having a really bad obstructive sleep apnea," Miller said.

She and her colleagues recommended that doctors monitor a patient's sleep before and during growth hormone treatment for symptoms of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring and abnormal daytime sleepiness.

"The important part is for parents to realize that being on growth hormone, while it's good for most people (with Prader-Willi), there is a subset that's vulnerable to having problems during sleep. That's why the sleep study should be done, because we don't know who it's going to be," Miller said.

More information

To learn more about Prader-Willi syndrome, visit the National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, Jan. 18, 2006
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