What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is caused by the closing of the upper airway while asleep. OSA causes a drop in one’s blood oxygen saturation (SaO2) and an increase in the blood’s carbon dioxide (CO2). When the SaO2 drops the heart will start pumping more blood with each beat. If the SaO2 continues to drop the heart will start beating faster and faster. As the CO2 increases the brain will try to drive the person to breathe. The effort and the action of the abdomen and chest will increase. Eventually that action can become severe enough to cause the individual to stir or awaken in an effort to clear the upper airway blockage, allowing the person to breathe. Then go back to sleep, where the same thing will happen again and again.

How is OSA Diagnosed

Diagnosis of OSA is made by a physician specially trained in sleep medicine. If it is determined that the patient might have asleep disorder, they would be asked to take a polysomnogram (sleep study). This sleep study will monitor several sleep parameters including EEG, EKG, eye movement, chin movement, air flow, chest efforts, abdomen, SaO2, snoring and leg movement. Each parameter serves to help the physician make a correct diagnosis.

Treatment of OSA

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) appears to be the best and most effective treatment for OSA. CPAP flow generators develop a constant, controllable pressure to keep your upper airway open, allowing the patient to breathe normally. CPAP is effective on 95% of the patients diagnosed with OSA. These units are reliable, quiet and efficient and come in a variety of sizes and shapes.