A new type of surgery could help improve the quality of sleep for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which causes snoring and abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep, a doctor at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital said yesterday.
The sleep disorder affects adults and children, and between 5 percent and 15 percent of middle-aged adults may be affected by it, though many have not been diagnosed yet, said Lin Cheng-hui (林政輝), a doctor at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s department of plastic surgery and craniofacial center.
A 61-year-old patient surnamed Su (蘇), diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome two years ago, suffered from shallow sleep and a high snore frequency almost every day, while sometimes respiratory tract congestions occurred more than 80 times in one night, with pauses in his breathing lasting more than 30 seconds on some occasions.
Lin said the syndrome is mainly caused by a relaxed velar and the tongue resting on the lateral pharyngeal wall, causing repetitive congestion of the respiratory tract.
The result of this repetitive congestion is low oxygen levels in the blood, causing the patient to wake up easily during sleep and also leading to symptoms of fatigue during the day.
The sleep disorder caused Su’s blood oxygen saturation rate to drop as low as 77 percent and after a year of medical treatment with a positive airway pressure device, Su still felt tired after waking up, Lin said.
However, after about six hours of orthognathic surgery and a recovery period of about three weeks, the frequency of abnormal breathing pauses during Su’s sleep dropped to about 1.8 times per hour, greatly improving Su’s snoring problem, as well as keeping his blood oxygen saturation rate above 90 percent.
Lin said treatment of the syndrome does not necessarily have to be surgery and sometimes it can even be treated through losing weight.
“Research results have shown that reducing the body weight by 10 percent can reduce the asphyxia rate by 26 percent,” Lin said.
Diagnosis of the disorder and its severity is based on an evaluation of three clinical symptoms — excessive daytime sleepiness, abnormal breathing speed and if the person has cardiovascular disease complication, Lin said.
Research by the hospital shows that patients who suffer from the syndrome have about 1.2 to 6.9 times more risk of ischemic heart disease, Lin said, suggesting that people who suffer from such sleeping disorder symptoms check with their doctor and arrange for a thorough examination.