Who Should Treat My Sleep Apnea: A Sleep Doctor or My PCP?
For people who suspect they have sleep apnea, as well as for those who are already struggling with this sleep disorder, the answer to this question isn’t always clear. Fortunately, a new study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that people with sleep apnea that were treated by their primary care physician were as able as those treated by sleep doctors in sleep centers to get improvement in their daytime sleepiness scores. This is good news for those patients who are struggling to get the sleep they need while waiting for an appointment at a sleep center.
The rise in obesity rate and the increased understanding of the health risks associated with untreated sleep apnea has created an ever increasing demand for sleep center consultations, appointments with sleep doctors, and polysomnography performed within a sleep lab or center. In some areas, the increased demand has overwhelmed the capacity of sleep labs and sleep centers to respond which has means patients have to get on a waiting list and wait for an appointment to open up. Thankfully, with 5 sleep centers around the valley, Valley Sleep Center is most often able to accommodate patients needing a sleep study without much of a delay.
Given the serious and sometimes immediate health consequences associated with untreated obstructive sleep apnea and the fact that almost a third of patients that meet with a primary care physician report symptoms associated with sleep apnea, the inability to diagnose and treat patients in a timely matter is a grave concern for the sleep medicine community.
In order to begin addressing this gap, a research team in Australia conducted a study to determine if there was a simplified diagnosis model that could be used in primary care settings. The thought was that if some diagnosis and treatment could be shifted to primary care physicians, it would enable sleep centers and sleep doctors to focus on the more complex cases.
The study included 155 patients who had been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Participants were treated by either a primary care physician or at a University sleep center. The treatment options for all participants, regardless of who treated them, were the same and included continuous positive air pressure or CPAP therapy and lower jaw splint appliances. The participants were followed for almost two years and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale was used at different intervals to measure the effectiveness of each treatment option. The study showed that there was no difference in outcome between the two groups. Those participants who were treated by a primary care physician saw the same improvements over time as those who were treated at the sleep center. Participants being treated by the sleep center were less likely to drop out of the study but all participants who followed the recommended treatment plan saw near identical improvements.
However, with the ever-changing information being uncovered about sleep disorders and their effect on your health, board certified professionals in the field of sleep are often the best resource for the cutting edge information and treatment of sleep disorders. Valley Sleep Center has a variety of testing methods available, from Home Sleep Tests to Polysomnograms, or overnight sleep studies, in one of our 5 valley locations. If you think you might have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to give one of our board certified sleep physicians a call today. Your health, and your life, could depend on it.
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