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August 2007 Issue

Victoria Surdulescu, MD, says the UC Sleep Center was one of the first treatment facilities in the area to use the adaptive servoventilation system.
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New Sleep Apnea Technology Helps Patients Rest Easier

By Katie Pence
Published August 2007

Some of our essential bodily movements are involuntary, for example blinking or the beating of our hearts.

But there are times when one of these automatic functions— breathing—simply stops. That’s the unnerving and potentially dangerous problem faced by thousands of Americans who suffer from a condition called central sleep apnea.

“Central sleep apnea patients truly stop breathing during sleep,” says Victoria Surdulescu, MD, division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. “The muscles just stop working, causing a pattern of periods of non-breathing followed by hyperventilation.”

Central sleep apnea is a rarer form of sleep apnea. The more common type is called obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs when a person’s airway is obstructed during sleep, normally by the tongue or other upper airway structures.

Surdulescu and colleagues with the UC Sleep Center are helping sufferers get a breath of fresh air while they doze.

New equipment called adaptive servoventilation senses both a patient’s need for air and efforts to breathe.

The machine works by pushing air into the patients’ mouth or nose every six to eight seconds through a mask. It forces them to breathe on their own without disturbing their sleep.

“It kicks in if a patient’s effort is lower than the calibrated pressure,” Surdulescu says.

The UC Sleep Center was one of the first in the area to use this technology. Patients who suffer from central sleep apnea also often suffer from other health problems.

According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, about 38,000 deaths occur annually from cardiovascular problems connected to sleep apnea. These problems include high blood pressure, hypertension and stroke.

“Many people discover other health problems after experiencing sleep difficulties,” Surdulescu says. “Those who seek treatment for sleep issues have a better quality of life and often prevent further health trouble.”

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