Patients who suffer from sleep apnea are commonly treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices.
A recent study showed that patients who are recovering from heart surgery may also benefit from using a CPAP during the recovery period.
Using a CPAP may help prevent complications that sometimes follow heart surgery, particularly pneumonia and other complications of the pulmonary system.
This can help improve recovery times, and decrease the number of patients who are readmitted to intensive care units or intermediate care units. Readmission to intensive care and intermediate care units is usually due to a need to be reintubated as a result of breathing issues.
Heart surgery patients in the study either received CPAP treatment continuously for a minimum of 6 hours following surgery, or intermittent CPAP treatment at 10 minute intervals over periods of four hours, which is the standard treatment.
The patients who received continuous CPAP therapy had better blood oxygen levels with no negative impact on heart rate or blood pressure. They also had fewer pulmonary complications, such as pneumonia, and were less likely to be readmitted to the intensive care unit or require reintubation.
There were also fewer admissions to the intermediate care unit. In fact, twice as many patients in the standard treatment group were readmitted to the intensive care unit or intermediate care unit as in the group that received continuous CPAP treatment. There were fewer episodes of hypoxemia, which is when blood oxygen levels are lower than normal.
A total of 500 patients were studied, and all were receiving elective cardiac surgery.
CPAP therapy is generally very well-tolerated. In addition, it is simple, noninvasive, and inexpensive. As results of this study show, it can make a significant difference in reducing pulmonary complications following heart surgery.
A CPAP machine delivers pressurized air through a mask worn on the patient’s face. This helps keep the patient’s airways open during sleep. Patients with sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep without the device (or a similar device known as a BiPAP).
Sleep apnea can lead to hypertension and other serious medical conditions including heart arrhythmias, stroke, diabetes, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea may be either obstructive or central, meaning it may be caused by either an obstruction of the patient’s airway, or by a problem with the brain’s centers of respiratory control.