Perioperative treatment of patients with obstructive sleep apnea

Sanjay S Jain, Rajiv Dhand
Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine 2004, 10 (6): 482-8

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder. Despite reports of its role as a risk factor for postoperative morbidity and mortality, only a few investigators have examined the optimal treatment of patients during this vulnerable period. Recognition of obstructive sleep apnea during conscious sedation or in the perioperative period is important to prevent the occurrence of adverse outcomes. This review discusses the influence of sedative, anesthetic, and analgesic agents and other factors during the perioperative period on patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The aim of this article is to emphasize the importance of recognizing and appropriately treating surgical patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

RECENT FINDINGS: Sedative, analgesic, and anesthetic agents used perioperatively play a major role in the development of sleep-disordered breathing during the postoperative period. Postoperative apneic episodes frequently occur even after surgery remote from the upper airway. Sleep apnea predisposes patients to a greater than normal risk for postsurgical complications. Adequate screening of patients preoperatively and initiation of continuous positive airway pressure therapy perioperatively could prevent serious complications, including hypoxemia, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and respiratory arrest.

SUMMARY: Obstructive sleep apnea places a significant proportion of surgical patients at increased risk of perioperative complications. Obstructive sleep apnea can be induced, unmasked, or exacerbated by the effects of sedative, analgesic, and anesthetic agents regardless of the site of surgery. The role of sleep apnea as a risk factor for development of postoperative complications needs greater emphasis. Increased awareness of the risk posed by an obstructed upper airway and appropriate management are important to optimize the perioperative care of patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

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