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Surgery Not First Choice to Treat Sleep Apnea

Benefits of surgery, if any, are not sustained over long term

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the fact that surgery is becoming widespread in some countries as the first line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, this is not supported by research findings and should only be done as part of a clinical trial, in which patients are fully informed of the risks, according to an article published in the Jan. 5 issue of BMJ.

Adam G. Elshaug, of the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues reviewed available literature on treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and found that surgery is becoming increasingly prevalent in Australia and the Nordic countries, yet the published research shows that surgery has a low impact on symptoms, improvements are rarely sustained beyond one or two years, and up to 62 percent of patients subsequently experience persistent adverse effects.

The recommended first-line treatment should still be continuous positive airway pressure, as well as weight and alcohol management to tackle two of the primary risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. The second-line treatment should be the use of mandibular advancement devices, the authors write.

"Surgery for obstructive sleep apnea should be done within controlled clinical trials. Patients should be informed about the trial, as well as of the inconsistent results of surgery, the associated pain, the potential side effects, and the potential for relapse," the authors conclude.

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