Sufferers from sleep apnea may soon have the option of a simpler treatment for their problems.
Sleep apnea occurs when breathing passages become obstructed during sleep and breathing is interrupted temporarily but frequently; it is often accompanied by snoring.
Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans and is more common in people who are obese; it can lead to daytime drowsiness and other complications including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Current treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which uses a breathing machine which is cumbersome and intrusive.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have come up with a much simpler device which they believe will improve the treatment outcomes for patients with sleep apnea syndrome because it is minimally intrusive.
They used a thin, flexible tube with small prongs inserted into the nostrils, to deliver warm, humidified air at a high flow rate to raise nasal pressure; a heater and humidifier regulated the temperature and humidity of the air, which was delivered by a compressor to the nasal tube.
Dr. Hartmut Schneider and colleagues say while CPAP is the widely accepted treatment, low adherence impedes its therapeutic effectiveness leaving a vast number of patients untreated.
The researchers examined the effectiveness of the nasal tube in 11 patients with sleep apnea, ranging from mild to severe and they found with an air flow rate of 20 liters per minute, sleep and breathing patterns stabilized in all of the subjects and the average number of apnea events was reduced.
They believe the results show that oxygen therapy using a single nasal tube is a viable alternative to CPAP.
The research is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, July 15, 2007.