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More tolerable treatment for severe, obstructive sleep apnea around the world

While the most effective treatment for severe, obstructive sleep apnea is a tracheotomy, many people decline to have the operation because they loathe the idea of having a quarter sized opening in their neck. Now, a study in the June issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine proves that a tiny 2 millimeter opening can work as well when combined with a new technology to monitor the flow of air. The finding may lead to new treatments in the future.

"This study gives us a new approach to supporting ventilation in patients with sleep apnea and other kinds of breathing disorders," says Alan Schwartz, M.D., associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study. "This approach is potentially far more tolerable."

Obstructive sleep apnea, a common condition, occurs when air cannot flow properly through a person's nose or mouth. Triggered by problems such as excess tissue in the airway, the condition seriously disturbs normal sleep and causes fatigue. Oral devices and surgeries can remedy the problem, but the most common therapy is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP, used during sleep, provides a stream of air to the throat via a mask and pump. It keeps structures from blocking the air passage. But when a person with severe apnea cannot tolerate the mask or other treatments fail, doctors recommend tracheotomies. Many patients, however, refuse the operation, aghast at the size of the necessary opening surgeons must leave in the neck.

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Contact: Kate O'Rourke
korourke@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
15-Jun-2000


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