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Memorial HealthWatch Winter 2008

Recognizing Sleep Apnea

Memorial's Centers for Sleep Disorders Use High-Tech Laboratories to Diagnose Children and Adults

Recognizing Sleep Apnea

Sleep: We all need it, and most of us don't get enough of it. Millions of Americans, however, aren't getting quality rest even when they are asleep due to a condition called sleep apnea, which causes one to stop breathing periodically during sleep. Adults and children alike are suffering the consequences of nights punctuated with stops and starts in the sleep cycle, which can result in symptoms such as loud snoring, difficulty breathing, choking and gasping. Waking symptoms include daytime sleepiness, problems performing tasks at work or in school, and in some cases, nodding off behind the wheel while driving.

The Consequences of Sleep Apnea

It's important to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea and see a doctor before the condition leads to more serious health issues. "Roughly 80 percent of people with sleep apnea will go on to develop high blood pressure," says Damon Salzman, MD, a neurologist on the medical staff of Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital South, Memorial Hospital West, Memorial Hospital Miramar and Memorial Hospital Pembroke. "Sixty percent will have a stroke, and many can have heart attacks."

Dr. Salzman is on the panel at the Memorial Hospital Pembroke Center for Sleep Disorders, which helps people identify sleep apnea by having them spend the night at the facility hooked up to approximately 20 different leads that allow doctors to monitor heart rate, oxygen levels, eye movements, brain waves and other variables that contribute to sleep deprivation.

Pediatric Symptoms

Sleep apnea can take its toll on children, often with symptoms that are just the opposite of those experienced by adults, including hyperactivity, restlessness and short-temperedness. "The problem with sleep apnea in kids is that parents don't usually recognize those behaviors as symptoms," says Juan Martinez, MD, a pediatric pulmonary specialist on the medical staff of Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital South, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Miramar and one of only two pediatricians in South Florida who is board certified in sleep studies.

Dr. Martinez runs the pediatric sleep lab at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, the only one of its kind in Florida. The program began in 2005 with 60 patients a year and has grown to 120 per year. The criteria for determining children's sleep disorders differ from those used to diagnose adults, but like adults, kids are kept overnight for monitoring. Solutions range from simple ones, such as realigning the child's sleep schedule, to procedures such as tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy, or surgery to repair more complicated anatomic problems. Obesity is also a contributing factor.

In the great majority of cases, participation in a sleep study is covered by insurance. Once its causes are identified, sleep apnea can be treated, and in many cases, cured.

To find a Memorial physician who is committed to patient- and family-centered care, call Memorial Physician Referral Service toll-free at (800) 944-DOCS. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.