Taking Care of an Ill Loved One

Obesity & Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea? Consider Gastric Sleeve Surgery

If you are obese and suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnea, it's a good idea for you to ask your healthcare team about bariatric surgery, such as a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric sleeve surgery. The combination of obesity and severe obstructive sleep apnea can be deadly, particularly when a CPAP machine is required but not used, such as what may have happened to Justice Scalia, or when CPAP treatment is no longer effective. Here's what you need to know.

The Impact of Obesity & Obstructive Sleep Apnea on Health

As you are aware, obesity itself can bring a host of medical conditions that can become dangerous, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Severe obstructive sleep apnea also results in the same serious medical conditions, particularly due to the strain that is put on the cardiovascular system and the lack of oxygen to the brain.

When you're feeling unwell and have so many medical problems, you start to feel like you're in a downward spiral in regards to your health. This feeling can easily cause depression, which may make you want to stay in bed and sleep, which just compounds the issues due to lack of exercise and relying on your CPAP machine. While you may feel hopeless, there is something you can do — have bariatric surgery. 

Bariatric Surgery May Reduce the Need for CPAP Therapy

Most often, people in your condition are prescribed a CPAP machine. While these devices are helpful in many cases, they don't get to the root of the problem, which is obesity. Many patients in your situation are told by their healthcare team to lose weight, but that's typically much easier said than done. Also, when your health and life are at such great risk, bariatric surgery should be considered. 

Whether you're at risk of CPAP treatment failing or you're worried about your CPAP machine functioning nightly, bariatric surgery such as the gastric sleeve may be the answer. In a study of 27 morbidly obese people who had bariatric surgery (22 of which had sleeve gastrectomy), 15 patients required CPAP therapy for severe obstructive sleep apnea prior to surgery. Of those 15, only 3 required CPAP therapy after bariatric surgery. 

Tests & Appointments Needed Before Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Before any surgery is performed, routine tests are done, such as complete blood count, chemistry panel, and urinalysis. For bariatric surgeries, particularly for those who have obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing issues, a sleep study will need to be done before surgery. This will help the anesthesiology team to determine which sedatives and methods will be most appropriate for your sedation for the surgery you will undergo as well as for the recovery period after surgery. 

Other tests will be necessary as well, particularly if you have other health conditions. You will likely undergo pulmonary function testing to determine if your lungs function properly, an echocardiogram to take a look at the condition of your heart, and a liver function test to see if your liver works properly. Depending on your health insurance, you may be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before your insurance will approve payment for the surgery and all the costs related to the surgery. 

You may be referred to a nutritionist who will help guide you in developing new eating habits that will work best for you after your gastric sleeve surgery. They will also help you determine which types of foods you will need to avoid, such as foods and drinks that cause gas, as well as determining which types of vitamin and mineral supplements you will need after surgery.