Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Current treatment options in neurology Guilleminault, C., Abad, V. C. 2004; 6 (4): 309-317


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a major public health problem in the US that afflicts at least 2% to 4% of middle-aged Americans and incurs an estimated annual cost of 3.4 billion dollars. At Stanford, we utilize a multispecialty team approach combining the expertise of sleep medicine specialists (adult and pediatric), maxillofacial and ear, nose, and throat surgeons, and orthodontists to determine the most appropriate therapy for complicated OSA patients. The major treatment modality for children with OSA is tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy with or without radiofrequency treatment of the nasal inferior turbinate. Children with craniofacial anomalies resulting in maxillary or mandibular insufficiency may benefit from palatal expansion or more invasive maxillary/mandibular surgery. Continuous positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is used in children with OSA who are not surgical candidates or have failed surgery. As a last resort, tracheotomy may be used in patients with persistent or severe OSA who do not respond to other measures. The cornerstone of treatment in adults utilizes PAP: continuous PAP, bilevel PAP, or auto PAP. Treatment of nasal obstruction, appropriate titration, attention to mask-fit issues, desensitization for claustrophobia, use of heated humidification for nasal dryness and nasal pain with continuous PAP, patient education, regular follow-up, use of compliance software (in selected individuals), and referral to support groups (AWAKE) are measures that can improve patient compliance. Adjunctive treatment modalities include lifestyle/behavioral/pharmacologic measures. Oral appliances can be used in patients with symptomatic mild sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. Patients who are unwilling or unable to tolerate continuous PAP or who have obvious upper airway obstruction may benefit from surgery. Surgical success depends on appropriate patient selection, the procedure performed, and the experience of the surgeon. Phase I surgeries have a success rate of 50% to 60%, whereas phase II surgeries have a success rate greater than 90%.

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