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Treatments for Apnea

Treatments for Apnea:

Treatment plans for apnea are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, returns normal spontaneous breathing and decreases the risk of developing serious complications, such as respiratory acidosis and death.

Most causes of apnea are treated with CPR and advanced life support measures. This can include artificial respiration by mouth or by manually pumping oxygen into the airway by using a special bag connected to a face mask that is placed over the mouth and nose.

If spontaneous breathing does not begin promptly, a special tube is placed down the throat and airway (intubation). This tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator that continues to pump oxygen into the lungs as other advanced life support measures are continued.

If apnea is due to a foreign body, it is emergently removed in a procedure. Intubation and mechanical ventilation may still need to be performed.

In addition to life support measures, the underlying cause of apnea may be treated with medications. When apnea is caused by a bacterial infection, such as in bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics are prescribed. When apnea is caused by asthma, medications may include corticosteroids and bronchodilators, which are breathed in via inhalers and nebulizers. Apnea caused by narcotic overdose can be reversed by the medication naloxone [Narcan].

Apnea caused by trauma to the chest that results in a collapsed lung condition, such as pneumothorax or hemopneumothorax, is treated by re-inflating the lung and draining the blood by insertion of a tube into the chest wall.

Obstructive sleep apnea is often treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing extra weight, quitting smoking and not using alcohol, sedatives or sleeping pills. Not sleeping on the back may also be helpful. Devices are also use in treating obstructive sleep apnea. These include non-mechanical oral appliances that are worn like a mouth guard at night to keep the tongue from obstructing the windpipe.

Another device used to treat obstructive sleep apnea is called nasal continuous positive pressure airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP requires that a person wears a mask while sleeping. This mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers pressurized air into the airway and holds open the structures of the throat that can sag and cause an obstruction. Surgery may also be needed in some cases.

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