At the recent October 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting & OTO Expo in San Diego, California a paper with attention getting information was presented. A study,which was lead by Dr. Nora Siupsinskiene from Kaunas University of Medicine in Lithuania, indicates a correlation between upper gastrointestinal tract pathology and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
"To our knowledge, until now no study was published on evaluation of upper G.I. tract endoscopic findings in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome versus snoring patients", states Dr. Siupsinskiene. (1)
The case subjects included 42 adults who were diagnosed with OSA and 13 adults who were classified as snoring-only and served as the controls. The OSA patients experienced at least five episodes of sleep apnea per night. All of the patients underwent an upper G.I. endoscopy to evaluate G.I. health.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, which usually occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. (2) This disorder is noted in adults and children, men and women. However, there is an increase in the risk factors among males, overweight individuals, those over the age of 40, persons who have large tonsils, and anyone with a family history of sleep apnea.
Evaluation of the data concluded that pathological gastrointestinal incidences were noted in 83.3% of the OSA patients and 84.6% of the control or snoring-only patients.Cases of two or more G.I. findings were 59.5% among the OSA group and 76.9% of the controls. The most common G.I. findings discovered in the OSA group with 64.3% displaying hiatal hernias, 45.2% had grade A erosive esophagitis, histological esophagitis and erosive gastritis equally appeared in 21.4%. To a less degree, 7.1% had a duodenal ulcer and 4.8% had biliary reflux. There was a similar distribution in the snoring-only patients. It was noted that no direct correlation existed between the severity of OSA and the frequency of gastrointestinal findings.
Dr. Siupsinskiene recommends that individuals who have been diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing, regardless of the severity, should consult a gastroenterologist for evaluation. (1)
Maryann Gromisch is a registered nurse with clinical experience in the area of medical and surgical nursing, critical care, and gastroenterology in a private practice setting.