Mandatory Screening for Sleep Apnea

A patient just happened to mention that her young daughter was found to have significant hearing loss during a routine newborn screening. She was thankful that this was even available, which has allowed her daughter to get the appropriate attention and support and to lead a relatively normal life. 


This got me thinking about all the other screening tests that we do for conditions that occur about 1-2% of the time. Granted, these are potentially serious conditions if not treated quickly. However, knowing that significant obstructive sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of the population (much higher as one gets older), wouldn’t it make sense to have mandatory screening for sleep apnea at various milestones? 


You could have one quick questionnaire or even a simple home study before entering school. This will pick up a lot of children with obstructive sleep apnea that eventually would have been diagnosed with ADHD. Have another one just before entering college. Depression and other mental disorders begin to rise in this age group. A significant number of young adults diagnosed with depression or anxiety will ultimately have untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Have another test for people in their middle-aged years, before the onset of cardiovascular disease.


Numerous studies have shown that treating obstructive sleep apnea can save a lot more money in the long run. Besides their sleep apnea treatments, they don’t have to go to the doctor as often or be treated for as many medical conditions. 


Something to think about for our political leaders when it comes to health care reform: Screen for obstructive sleep apnea. It could save our country billions of dollars, as well as thousands of live every year.


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