Sedative warning for sleep apnoea patients

Patients could fall unconscious or even stop breathing

An editorial in the American journal Anesthesia Progress has urged dentists to screen their patients for sleep apnoea before administering sedatives.

Patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), particularly those who are morbidly obese, can become short of breath, fall unconscious, or even stop breathing if they are given the normal doses of a sedative before dental surgery.

While they sleep, patients suffering from OSA can cycle through periods when they don’t breathe in enough oxygen and retain too much carbon dioxide. When the levels become life threatening, a primitive instinct kicks in and the patient awakens briefly, takes several breaths, and then falls back asleep. But sedatives can override this arousal impulse. OSA patients who don’t wake up to open their airway and breathe can die, either in the dentist’s chair or after returning home if a sufficient amount of the drug is still in their system.

The article reveals that researchers in the States have reported that relatively few patienst with OSA are diagnosed by primary care doctors and tested in a sleep study laboratory. For undiagnosed patients, dentists can complete a questionnaire that considers the likelihood of OSA based on a patient’s gender, age, body mass index, and several sleep-related factors.

To read the editorial in full, click here.