Sleep apnea contributes to a host of potentially deadly cardiac conditions, such as high blood pressure and arythmia. Even so, many cardiologists are not aware that their patients are suffering from it or the extent of its negative effects on their prognoses.
HME News reported on January 28, 2016, that a study of 75 patients with heart failure found sleep-related breathing problems in 70 of them.
“Our research showed that early recognition and treatment of patients hospitalized with decompensated congestive heart failure is associated with a reduction in readmissions for patients who use their positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy on a regular basis,” said Dr. Sunil Sharma, first author of the study.
After six months, patients with cardiovascular disease who used their PAP devices as directed had fewer readmissions than patients who did not comply, good news for patients and hospitals.
Recently, a link was discovered between sleep related breathing disorders and poor outcomes for PCI and ACS patients as well.
In July of 2016 TCTMD reported, “During an average follow up of 5.6 years, 21.4% of those with sleep-disordered breathing experienced major cardiocerebrovascular events (MACCE) versus 7.8% who had no breathing issues during sleep (P = 0.006). Additionally, more than three times as many patients with sleep-disordered breathing died over follow-up, and more than eight times as many were admitted for congestive heart failure.”
Using continuous positive airway pressure devices or CPAP machines isn’t easy for many patients. The masks are often uncomfortable and cause feelings of claustrophobia. The machines also generate loud breathing sounds, disturbing to some patients and their bed-mates.
“Nearly half of all patients prescribed a CPAP machine give up on it within a year, said Maurits Boon, an ear, nose, and throat specialist who focuses on sleep medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital,” in Philly.com on February 14, 2016.
Thankfully there are alternatives for patients who cannot use a CPAP, from appliances that re-position the lower jaw for better airflow, to surgery. A device can be implanted that acts like a pacemaker, stimulating the tongue to keep it from blocking the airway.
Untreated sleep apnea is a potential killer. American Sleep Association director Tracy Nasca told Philly.com, “About 104 Americans die every day from a cardiovascular event associated with sleep apnea.” Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea in cardiac patients can not only reduce the rate of costly hospital readmissions but also save lives.
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