29 January 2014

Spinal injuries can cause sleep apnoea

Researchers suggest that people with spinal cord injuries should be assessed for sleep apnoea.


People with spinal cord injuries should be assessed for sleep apnoea, researchers suggest.

In a study that looked at 26 people with cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper mid-back) spinal cord injuries, investigators found that 77 % of them had breathing problems during sleep and 92% had poor sleep quality.

The nature of the breathing problems experienced by these patients during sleep is complex, and many of them had both obstructive and central sleep apnoea. Obstructive sleep apnoea causes the airway to collapse or become blocked during sleep, while in central sleep apnoea, the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Central sleep apnoea was more common in patients with cervical spinal injuries than in those with thoracic spinal injuries, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Potential targets for new treatment

"The majority of spinal cord injury survivors have symptomatic sleep-disordered breathing and poor sleep that may be missed if not carefully assessed," lead author Dr Abdulghani Sankari, physician scientist at John D. Dingell VA Medical Centre and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, said in a journal news release.

"Our findings help in identifying the mechanism of sleep-disordered breathing in spinal cord injury and may provide potential targets for new treatment," he added.

Breathing problems during sleep may increase spinal cord injury patients' risk of cardiovascular death, noted study co-author Dr M. Safwan Badr, the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Read: Long-Term statin use best way to cut cardiovascular deaths

"All spinal cord injury patients should undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation using full, overnight polysomnography for the accurate diagnosis of sleep apnoea," Badr said in the news release.

Read more:

Dealing with sleep apnoea

Drug could stop spinal injuries

How sleep apnoea gets worse in winter

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