Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is an imprinted genetic disorder conferred by loss of paternal gene expression from chromosome 15q11.2-q13. Individuals with PWS have impairments in ventilatory control and are predisposed toward sleep disordered breathing due to a combination of characteristic craniofacial features, obesity, hypotonia, and hypothalamic dysfunction. Children with PWS progress from failure to thrive during infancy to hyperphagia and morbid obesity during later childhood and onward. Similarly, the phenotype of sleep disordered breathing in PWS patients also evolves over time from predominantly central sleep apnea in infants to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in older children. Behavioral difficulties are common and may make establishing effective therapy with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) more challenging when OSA persists after adenotonsillectomy. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is also common in patients with PWS and may continue after OSA is effectively treated. We describe here the characteristic ventilatory control deficits, sleep disordered breathing, and excessive daytime sleepiness seen in individuals with PWS. We review respiratory issues that may contribute to sudden death events in PWS patients during sleep and wakefulness. We also discuss therapeutic options for treating sleep disordered breathing including adenotonsillectomy, weight loss, and CPAP. Lastly, we discuss the benefits and safety considerations related to growth hormone therapy.
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