Sleep Apnea and Anesthesia

Sleep apnea is a dangerously growing trend. It’s often accompanied by other complications involving—but not limited to—cardiac disease, obesity, stroke, and high blood pressure. Potential issues during surgery are also likelier when a patient suffers from sleep apnea. Studies, however, have found that the risks associated with sleep apnea and surgery can be reduced by using different types of anesthesia. Nearly 25% of surgical patients suffer from sleep apnea, so this news may have a huge impact on the state of surgical medicine.

A patient with sleep apnea can have their breathing stop up to 30 times in an hour, which can pose a serious problem for those undergoing surgeries like joint replacement. Where local anesthesia numbs a localized portion of the body, general anesthesia puts a person into a sleep-like state. This is where the danger lies for sleep apnea sufferers, whose breathing can suddenly stop during surgery.

In an effort to see what could be done about this, a team of medical researchers decided to try a different approach when performing a joint replacement on someone with sleep apnea. Instead of using general anesthesia, they applied local anesthesia instead.

The injected local anesthesia seemed to have been just as effective as the general one. Complications during surgery were also less frequent with the regional anesthetic. Researchers are confident that this principle can be applied to other surgeries, as well. Using a regional anesthesia instead of a general one could potentially change how surgery is performed on sleep apnea patients.

Studies have been conducted to see how different types of anesthesia affect surgeries on sleep apnea patients. Of these, some have shown as much as a 17% reduction in intrasurgical complications. In light of these studies, it is hoped that invasive procedures can be performed with less risk to sleep apnea sufferers.