Ron Mitchell, M.D.
Holder of the:
Does your child snore? Snoring can be a warning sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious and underdiagnosed disorder in children. OSA is extremely common in overweight and obese children, and it can be a challenge to treat. The usual first-line treatment – tonsillectomy – may not only fail to control the OSA in heavier children but may actually itself lead to weight gain, defeating the purpose of surgery.
We’re making big strides in setting up clinics that are fairly unique in North Texas, where kids with multiple problems can come and have a one-shop visit where they see all the people they need to see.”
Ron Mitchell, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at UT Southwestern, has devoted much of his career to untangling the intertwined problems of OSA, large tonsils, and obesity. Dr. Mitchell routinely cares for these children in his surgical practice and studies how surgery for OSA affects kids’ behavior, sleep, health, and quality of life. “Over the last 10 years, the pediatric community has increasingly recognized that OSA is not just a disorder of adults but also affects quite a lot of children,” he says.
Much of Dr. Mitchell’s research has made headlines, including his finding that surgery does generally improve the quality of life for children with OSA. Research into the disorder, he says, should be considered a public health priority. “It is our responsibility and duty to make people aware that sleep problems in kids affect them to the same extent that things like chronic asthma, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic conditions do,” he says.
Dr. Mitchell has made it a priority to create multidisciplinary clinics where children can see providers of many specialties, including otolaryngologists, under one roof. While children with problems such as allergies or strep throat may need a pediatrician or an otolaryngologist, he says, others have more complex needs that require a team.
Children found to be deaf early in life, for example, may need a surgeon, an audiologist, a social worker, and a psychologist. They may receive radiologic studies such as a CT or MRI and attend care conferences with their parents and multiple specialists. When these specialists work together and coordinate care, the experience for children is safer, smoother, and more pleasant. “Ten percent of kids really need a different approach to care,” Dr. Mitchell says. “I think Children’s Medical Center is pioneering that approach in North Texas.”