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How, what, and why of sleep apnea. Perspectives for primary care physicians.

Author(s): Chung SA | Jairam S | Hussain MR | Shapiro CM

Journal: Canadian Family Physician
ISSN 0008-350X

Volume: 48;
Issue: 6;
Start page: 1073;
Date: 2002;
Original page

OBJECTIVE: To review the need for primary care physicians to screen for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). QUALITY OF EVIDENCE: Literature was reviewed via MEDLINE from 1993 to 2000, inclusive, using the search term "sleep apnea" combined with "epidemiology," "outcome," and "diagnosis and treatment." Citations in this review favour more recent, well controlled and randomized studies, but findings of pilot studies are included where other research is unavailable. MAIN MESSAGE: Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder with serious medical, socioeconomic, and psychological morbidity, yet most patients with OSA remain undetected. Primary care physicians have a vital role in screening for these patients because diagnosis can be made only through overnight (polysomnographic) studies at sleep clinics. Physicians should consider symptoms of excessive or loud snoring, complaints of daytime sleepiness or fatigue, complaints of unrefreshing sleep, and an excess of weight or body fat distribution in the neck or upper chest area as possible indications of untreated OSA. CONCLUSION: Current research findings indicate that treating OSA patients substantially lowers morbidity and mortality rates and reduces health care costs. Primary care physicians need more information about screening for patients with OSA to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of those with the condition.
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