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Various therapies available for sleep apnea

The didgeridoo creates circulatory breathing that can help relieve sleep apnea and snoring. (Photo/Martin Curik)

A variety of alternative and novel therapies is available for treatment of sleep apnea, reported speakers from the Keck Medical Center of USC’s Sleep Disorders Center at a community forum held at Verdugo Hills Hospital.

About 100 guests heard from physicians from the departments of medicine, otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and surgery and the owner of LA Outback at the Feb. 7 event.

“Now more than ever, we have strong evidence that untreated moderate to severe sleep apnea has significant implications for health and wellness, and more specifically, on heart health,” said Terese Hammond, assistant professor and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Keck Medical Center.

“Many people have a negative initial experience with CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure], the usual initial treatment for sleep apnea, so they decide not to treat their sleep apnea at all,” she said. “The message tonight is that there are a number of viable alternatives to CPAP that alone or in combination can significantly improve underlying sleep apnea. Anyone with significant sleep apnea who is currently not receiving treatment for their condition should promptly seek evaluation to see if they may benefit from an alternative therapy.”

Hammond described advanced pressure therapies to improve airflow without the discomfort of CPAP. She encouraged attendees to speak to their health care providers about alternatives.

Namir Katkhouda, professor of surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and chief of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Keck Medical Center, addressed obesity’s role in sleep apnea. He stressed the importance of healthy weight in helping to alleviate sleep apnea and other medical conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes.

Uttam Sinha, chief and residency program director of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, discussed TransOral Robotic Surgery, which can address tongue base-level obstruction that contributes to obstruction of the airway. Sinha said that the pain associated with the surgery is comparable to that of a severe sore throat. For most patients, pain decreases within three to four days after surgery.

Barry Martin, co-owner of LA Outback, performed and discussed how use of the didgeridoo creates circulatory breathing that can help relieve sleep apnea and snoring. The didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians.

Hammond agreed that playing the didgeridoo might be recommended to “nonobese or mildly obese patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea without risk factors for heart disease who would like to try a program of weight loss, diet and avoidance of sleeping on the back, combined with respiratory muscle training, before they pursued CPAP.”

Various therapies available for sleep apnea

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