Patients with Sleep Apnea May Present a Surgical Risk


More and more attention is being drawn to sleep apnea and its effect on patients undergoing surgery. Because not many studies have been dedicated to sleep apnea and risks associated with surgery, less than one in four hospitals in the United States and Canada have policies to manage surgical patients with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person frequently stops breathing for short periods during sleep. It not only makes their sleep restless but the person is at increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Typically, those affected are overweight and snore a lot. The condition affects two percent of women and four percent of men – through up to 80 percent of those with sleep apnea may not be aware of it.

If you have sleep apnea, you may be at a higher risk of developing complications while under general anesthetic. This may be associated with breathing problems that compound through sedation and lying on your back. Surgeons should be aware of this and need to take precautions with those who may have the condition. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Stavros Memtsoudis, director of Critical Care Service at Hospital for Special Surgery New York City, says “patients with sleep apnea may be at risk for many complications during surgery, including airway blockage and intubation problems.” He is calling for more research to be conducted on sleep apnea

A team at St Lucas Andreas Hospital recommends a few solutions which could circumvent complications associated with general anesthetic and sleep apnea. A patient could use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) before and after the operation. A patient could benefit from surveillance in intensive care. Also, it could be an advisable to looking for alternative treatment which does not need general anesthetic. Sometimes regional anesthesia may be an option but it requires surgical expertise and resources which may not be available at every hospital or through every insurance plan.

Overall, it is important for every person to be aware of any sleep disorders they may have. Before undergoing any surgery, it is important to know about any medical conditions you have. FusionSleep is the leader in sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from a sleep disorder we are ready to help you or your loved ones. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.