Sleep apnea has a number of serious dangers for surgical patients. There are risks that when combined with anesthesia sleep apnea could cause patients to experience respiratory failure, pulmonary embolism, or other serious complications following surgery. Now a new study shows that, in some respects, at least, CPAP can help these patients.

Speeding Recovery

Surgeons' handsResearchers from Toronto Western Hospital wanted to know whether CPAP is effective in helping their surgical patients recover. They were concerned because many of their surgical patients had sleep apnea. Because of the numerous conditions that sleep apnea can contribute to, surgical patients are more likely to have sleep apnea than the general population.

A literature review looked at the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of surgical patients who had sleep apnea and the length of stay (LOS) in hospital after surgery. Studies showed that the AHI of patients decreased by about two-thirds, from 37 events per hour to 12 per hour.

Perhaps most importantly, the study showed significant healing benefits from the use of CPAP for surgical patients. Those who received CPAP stayed in the hospital for an average of 3.9 days, compared to 4.3 days for those who didn’t get CPAP. A 10% reduction in hospital stays not only represents significantly faster healing, but a significant savings in the cost of medical treatment for these surgical patients.

Finding More and Better Alternatives

One thing this review showed is that there is definite potential for improvement of conditions for surgical patients with sleep apnea. But it also showed that there is a lot more research that should be done in this area. We need to know, for example, whether oral appliances can be used to help surgical patients as well. That would be an important finding because many people have difficulty complying with CPAP. If they aren’t using their CPAP, they won’t get the benefit. Having more treatment options besides CPAP means that more people get better sleep apnea treatment.

We also need to know whether sleep apnea treatment can help reduce the incidence of serious complications for surgical patients with sleep apnea. This is implied in the reduced hospital stay, but isn’t stated.

If you suspect that sleep apnea may be to blame for health problems you are suffering, it’s best to be treated before you have to face surgery and its potential risks. For more information, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.