Sleep apnea costly for older adults
Elderly and middle-aged adults with obstructive sleep apnea may be a bigger drain on healthcare services than their counterparts without the common sleep disorder, new research suggests.
People with obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep. It occurs when soft tissues in the back of the throat relax and temporarily block the airway. The condition is frequently seen in individuals who are obese and those who snore.
Research has suggested that adults with untreated OSA are high consumers of healthcare resources, investigators report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Dr. Ariel Tarasiuk, of Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel, and colleagues analyzed healthcare costs among 158 elderly adults, aged 67 to 89 years and 1,166 middle-aged adults who were 40 to 64 years old, during the 2 years prior to being diagnosed with OSA. They compared these costs with those of with age and gender matched controls without the sleep disorder.
The researchers found that healthcare costs were nearly twofold higher among the two sleep apnea groups, compared with the controls. Healthcare costs were also nearly two times higher among elderly sleep apnea patients compared with middle-aged sleep apnea patients, the investigators report.
The higher healthcare costs among elderly OSA patients may be due to cardiovascular illness and the use of psychoactive medications, the researchers say, noting that elderly patients with the highest healthcare costs were more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and be taking psychoactive drugs than elderly patients with lesser healthcare costs.
Tarasiuk’s team also found that snoring—a frequent symptom of OSA—was more common among elderly patients (96.3 percent) than middle-aged patients (88.8 percent). The older group also averaged 25 minutes less sleep a night and more severe episodes of not breathing.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, February 2008
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