Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Danger of Oxygen Use with Sleep Apnea and COPD

There are situations where the use of oxygen to treat sleep apnea may actually be dangerous. When chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema, occurs alone, oxygen has been shown to be beneficial. However, when it occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, a different picture emerges.

In this so-called "overlap syndrome," the use of nocturnal oxygen without relief of the airway obstruction can cause worsened breathing overnight. This may result in complaints such as morning headache or confusion. Therefore, it is important that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) be used to treat the obstruction, with supplemental oxygen infused into the system as needed to confer the other benefits.

Therefore, it is important that individuals with COPD undergo a sleep study if there is suspicion of sleep apnea contributing to their complaints. And clearly, oxygen alone is not an adequate treatment for those suspected of having sleep apnea.