Treating sleep apnea in heart patients reduces future hospital visits

The new study involved 104 heart patients in the hospital who reported symptoms of sleep apnea. They were being treated for problems such as heart failure or a heart attack. Each underwent a portable sleep study. It gives doctors the facts they need to diagnose sleep apnea. The study measures vital signs such as breathing, blood oxygen level and heart rate.

Results show that 78 percent of the heart patients had sleep apnea. Most of these cases involved obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a chronic disease that involves repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses put enormous stress on the heart. As a result people with OSA have a high risk of heart disease and heart-related death.

Patients with sleep apnea were started on CPAP therapy. CPAP provides gently pressurized air through a mask that you wear during sleep. The airflow keeps your airway open and restores normal breathing.

Results show that patients who regularly used CPAP had no hospital visits within 30 days. In contrast about 30 percent of patients who failed to use CPAP regularly did return to the hospital within a month.

“This study is a clarion call to detect, diagnose, and especially to treat sleep apnea in patients who are hospitalized for heart problems,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. He is president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a national spokesperson for the Healthy Sleep Project. “It improves the patient’s quality of life, improves health outcomes, and reduces the resources used to manage heart diseases.”