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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels.  When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat.  This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops.  When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction of the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.

Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems.  Additionally, these individuals suffer for excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.

The first stop in treatment resides with recognition of symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation.  To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study is recommended to monitor an individual overnight. This can be done at a sleep lab. In addition, a detailed history is taken and the doctor will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region.  With a cephalometric (skull x-ray) analysis, the doctors can ascertain the level of obstruction.

In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery).  This procedure is done at the hospital under general anesthesia.

OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment.




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