Categorized | Sleep Apnea

Getting Cleared for Surgery with Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea

Getting Any Surgery and Medical Clearance

Whenever patients are considering having surgery, there is a typical process that usually takes place around the world.  First the patient meets with their primary care doctor, or some other physician.  Next, if the decision is made to get surgery, or at least investigate it further, that same patient will often be referred directly to the surgeon’s office to discuss the procedure.  But, before the surgery every takes place, the patient needs to be medically cleared for the surgery.  This means that the patient must pass a judgement by the doctor’s involved, that he/she is physically able to have surgery and get past the stress and other potentially fatal challenges that surgery may pose.  This is where there is a huge problem.

Screening For Sleep Apnea Prior to Surgery

Although most patients assume that their doctors are taking the best care of them, and are looking out for their overall health, that unfortunately is not the case.  Because we are focused on sleep apnea here, it is shocking to learn how few surgeons actually are certain that their patients do not have sleep apnea prior to surgery.  Over the past few weeks, I have met with over 8 surgeon offices in the San Franciso, California area, and was shocked at my findings.

Not only did absolutely ZERO of the medical offices screen for sleep apnea prior to conducting their surgical procedures, but not a single surgeon’s office made any reference or question about sleep apnea signs or symptoms on their intake sheets that new patients are handed out.  This was appalling to say the least.

When I questioned the staff at all of these offices if they were concerned that they may be performing surgeries on patients who have moderate or even severe sleep apnea, they did not seem concerned at all.  And of course that was shocking to learn.  The almost identical response that each office gave me was that “Screening for sleep apnea was the job of the primary care doctor”.

OK, I hear you on that, and totally agree, but that is the utopian world way of thinking.   The reality is that roughly 90% of current sleep apnea patients are un-diagnosed, which means that a massive amount of patients who make their way to the surgery table have sleep apnea but not a single doctor knows it.

So, to follow up on the conversations, I asked the staff at the surgery offices if they would be concerned to operate on patients moving forward knowing that there is a high lieklihood that some of their patients fall into the category of un-diagnosed OSA sufferers.  The response was what I should have expected.  Again everybody in these offices told me it was not their responsibility.

I guess that time will only tell who’s responsibility it is if a patient dies while undergoing surgery, and if that death is found to be linked to sleep apnea.  Unfortunately, there seems to be little concern for this until it is too late.  And then even in death, it is very hard to trace a death to un-diagnosed sleep apnea, because nobody knew about it in the first place.

Oh wait a minute, the FBI is investigating one of these cases right now, maybe this will bring the matter to light.  Here is the story:

Death of woman maybe caused by Sleep Apnea

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