Award for new sleep apnoea service

A pioneering new service offered by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for people with a severe sleep disorder that affects breathing has been commended for its innovation.

A team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital late last year introduced a new service for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS). OSAS is a sleep disorder in which a person has irregular breathing at night and is excessively sleepy during the day. Previously patients had to travel to Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire to get treatment.

In sleep apnoea, the upper airway (pharynx) collapses repeatedly, at irregular intervals, during sleep. Apnoea is when the airway collapses and is blocked completely, cutting off the flow of air. Sleep apnoea affects around one in 100 people. Overweight men between the ages of 45 and 65 are most commonly affected.

As people with sleep apnoea fall asleep, the muscles in their airway relax. The collapsing of the airway (pharynx) causes people to come out of deep sleep and either wake momentarily or sleep lightly, as they are trying to breathe more deeply. The person soon resumes deep sleep, and the cycle begins again. The period of wakefulness is so brief that even though it may happen hundreds of times a night, the person usually will not remember waking up.

OSAS lowers oxygen saturation levels in the blood and can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and impotence. The condition can have not only a major impact on the patient's health but also the well-being of their partner. Contrary to popular opinion, only 10 per cent of heavy snorers have sleep apnoea.

The Norwich service, run by respiratory medicine consultants Drs Philippe Grunstein and Orion Twentyman, uses the latest hi-tech equipment that patients take home and use to monitor their sleep patterns. Each machine contains a “smart card” that the hospital team can download and examine the results.

Patients who need treatment then use the very latest “smart” machines to keep them breathing when asleep. The most effective non-invasive (non-surgical) treatment for sleep apnoea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The patient wears a soft mask over their nose and mouth, and a machine raises and automatically regulates the pressure of the air they breathe, preventing the airway from collapsing during sleep.

The Norwich team have been commended in the Hospital Doctor awards in the Innovation category for the development of the OSAS service. The service will treat around 200 to 250 patients a year.

Dr Grunstein said: ” We fought long and hard to get this kind of quality service provided in Norwich and we are grateful for the Trust's support especially that of Paul Forden and Dr Simon Watkin, in making a convincing case to the Strategic Health Authority. This is an evidence-based and high-quality service that makes a positive impact on the patient's life and often also that of their partner.” 

Wednesday 8th of February 2006 12:00:06 PM