Bariatric Surgery for Sleep Apnea

Can bariatric surgery help people with central sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious chronic condition that is prevalent in people who suffer from morbid obesity (link to morbid obesity). Because — by definition — sleep apnea occurs while you are sleeping, this breathing disorder often goes unnoticed. Solving sleep apnea requires lifestyle changes and long-term management, changes such as losing 100 pounds or more. Bariatric surgery can provide a tool to make those changes, giving you more control over your weight loss. Since sleep apnea is very common among morbidly obese individuals, and can pose a challenge for surgery, our team is well trained to handle these cases and your safety is our top priority. Our medical staff at Barix Clinics can help provide the information and answers you need regarding sleep apnea and bariatric surgery at your consultation.

To help you understand its risks, let’s break down the basics of sleep apnea.

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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person suffers from repeated pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. These pauses can last at least 10 seconds and occur five to 15 times (or more) per hour. This means that the brain and body may not get enough oxygen.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

1. Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea and symptoms can include loud snoring, restlessness while sleeping, feeling tired or falling asleep during the day and easily falling asleep.

OSA can be very dangerous — the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) notes that “OSA has been linked to premature death, traffic accidents, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, increased neck circumference and visceral obesity. It has been associated with a significantly increased incidence of sudden death from cardiac causes as well as an increased incidence of nocturnal cardiac arrhythmias and chronic or acute adverse cardiovascular events.”

OSA occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked while sleeping. A person falls asleep, and the oropharynx muscles in the back of the throat relax, allowing soft tissue to block the sleeper’s airway. The blockage causes a brief cessation in breathing, which jolts the sleeper awake. The pattern continues throughout the night.

Obesity is a common cause of OSA — “a 10 percent increase in weight predicted a six-fold increase in the odds of developing moderate-to-severe OSA,” according to the ASMBS

Can weight loss surgery help people with obstructive sleep apnea?

Weight loss often helps to alleviate the symptoms of OSA. People who lose 10 to 20 percent of their body weight can reduce their Apnea-Hyponea Index (also known as AHI, the score used to measure the severity of sleep apnea) by over 25 percent. The ASMBS reports that bariatric surgery can reduce AHI by as much as 71 percent.

The American Association of Sleep Technologies adds that “a total of 69 studies with 13,900 patients...revealed that all the (bariatric) procedures achieved profound effects on OSA, as over 75 percent of patients saw at least an improvement in their sleep apnea.”

2. Central sleep apnea
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea isn’t caused by a blockage. Breathing is disrupted by central sleep apnea because of how your brain functions. Instead of trying and failing to take a breath, the brain does not tell your body to breathe.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists severe obesity as one of the conditions that can cause central sleep apnea. The organization adds that central sleep apnea and obesity are sometimes linked to obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS), a condition in which an individual’s obesity causes lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

The complications of OHS are also severe: depression, sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure and heart and lungs problems are all linked to the condition.

Maintaining a healthy weight helps stave off central sleep apnea.

Can weight loss surgery help people with central sleep apnea?

Bariatric surgery may be more difficult for sufferers of central sleep apnea, particularly when the condition is linked to OHS — general anesthesia and postoperative conditions can pose additional dangers, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Our medical staff at Barix Clinics can help provide the information and answers you need regarding central sleep apnea and bariatric surgery.

How do you know if you have sleep apnea?

Many people who suffer from sleep apnea do not recall waking up when their breathing stops. They may, however, wake up not feeling well-rested. Other symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring

  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat

  • Difficulty paying attention

  • Morning headache

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Consult your doctor to determine if you have sleep apnea. He or she may choose to conduct an overnight test to measure your breathing.

What happens if sleep apnea is left untreated?

If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious, life-threatening consequences. Some of these include:

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure (which could cause a heart attack or stroke)

  • Work-related or driving accidents

  • Memory problems

  • Headaches

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Weight gain

You shouldn’t have to live with sleep apnea.

If you’re considering the benefits of weight loss surgery for sleep apnea, read Matthew’s story. Matthew had struggled with weight his whole life. Because of his weight, had developed sleep apnea and other obesity-related side effects by the time he reached college.

"My life before surgery was a constant battle,” Matthew says. “I had been obese since childhood and by the time I was a senior in college I weighed nearly 450 pounds. I will never forget the first time I was able to walk into a clothing store and buy something off the rack. It was thrilling. Going from 3XXX to a small is unthinkable logically but I did it, thanks to Barix."

If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, you aren’t alone. Barix Clinics can provide you with surgical weight loss solutions and help you need to improve your quality of life. To learn more, contact us today.

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