The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which represents more than 10,000 sleep medicine physicians and professionals, would like to clarify some erroneous statements reported by Kaiser and NPR in its story. Like all doctors, sleep medicine physicians have an ethical responsibility to diagnose patients with a suspected medical disorder and provide patients with the most effective treatment. Sleep apnea is a condition that cannot be accurately diagnosed by the patient’s history or physical examination, and an overnight sleep test is required to provide the physician the information needed to make a correct diagnosis. Furthermore, based on years of research data, it is clear that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the first-line treatment for OSA. CPAP helps restore normal breathing and oxygen levels during sleep, which improves blood pressure and sleep quality.
It is expected that health insurance providers will question the cost of health care, and a diagnostic sleep test and CPAP therapy do come with upfront costs. However, research using cost effective analysis has provided estimates, from an insurance payer’s perspective, indicating that CPAP therapy is a “good buy” because treating sleep apnea effectively will also improve other medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, reducing medication and hospitalization costs.
Further, sleep specialists do discuss and recommend behavioral treatments for OSA, such as weight loss and positional therapy if appropriate, during the development of the plan of care with the patient. It is important to note, however, that behavioral therapy may not be effective in every case and for every patient. Behavioral therapies are recommended in combination with a primary treatment such as CPAP to maximize the effectiveness of the care plan and manage the OSA most effectively. For patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea, such therapies in isolation are inadequate to manage the low oxygen levels and sleep disruption.
Additionally, there is considerable data reporting the benefit that diagnosis, treatment and management of OSA has on quality of life and health care. For a more personal and relatable understanding of this benefit, read the comments below from the many people living with OSA. Many remark that by having their OSA diagnosed and managed, they function better and their life is dramatically improved. Clearly, there is considerable benefit to testing patients with suspected OSA and managing their care with a plan that focuses on the right therapy for the patient.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical disorder, with estimates that as many as 80% of men and women remain undiagnosed. The breathing pauses occur when the muscles in the throat relax with the onset of sleep, and the air passages narrow or collapse. Blockage of the airway causes disruption of sleep, which leads to sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. In addition, OSA can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine emphasizes that effectively diagnosing and treating OSA reduces these health risks, promoting long-term well-being and improving quality of life. It is critical for individuals with suspected OSA to receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Help can be found at more than 2,300 AASM-accredited sleep disorders centers across the U.S. at aasmnet.org.