Treatment for sleep apnea

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 1st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Connecting yourself to an air pump with breathing tubes and a face mask might not be the most comfortable way to drift off to Dreamland. New research, though, suggests the nighttime air pump is the preferred therapy for sleep apnea, because of questions about surgery’s safety and effectiveness.

Sleep apnea affects more than twelve-million Americans. People with apnea repeatedly stop breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night and often for a minute or longer before the brain is finally aroused to restore normal breathing. The end result? Fragmented sleep of poor quality.

Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotence and headaches.

Several surgical procedures are used to alleviate apnea by increasing airway size. The most common is the removal of the uvula [you-vuh-la] and some of the soft palate at the back of the roof of the mouth. Tonsillectomies, adenoid removal and even laser-assisted procedures are often also done to further enlarge the airway.

British researchers reviewed eight clinical trials involving more than four-hundred sufferers of mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea. Their published findings revealed surgery shouldn’t be recommended, despite its widespread use to improve sleep quality. They cited uncertainty surrounding surgery’s safety and continued effectiveness.

Questions also arose about its inconsistent results.

Researchers favored the use of the C-PAP [see-papp] air pump, so named because it provides continued positive air pressure to keep the breathing passages from collapsing… better ensuring safer… and more satisfying… slumber.