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Original Research

Recognizing and Managing Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Primary Care

Larry Culpepper, MD, MPH, and Thomas Roth, PhD

Published: December 17, 2009

Article Abstract

Objective: This review aims to impart information regarding recognition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and associated excessive sleepiness (ES) in the primary care setting in order to provide optimal care to patients with this common but serious condition. This review will also discuss the prevalence and treatment of depression in patients with OSA.

Data Sources: A MEDLINE search of articles published between 1990 and 2008 was conducted using the search terms obstructive sleep apnea AND excessive sleepiness, obstructive sleep apnea AND depression, and obstructive sleep apnea AND primary care. Searches were limited to articles in English concerned with adult patients.

Study Selection: In total, 239 articles were identified. Articles concerning other sleep disorders and forms of apnea were excluded. The reference lists of identified articles were searched manually to find additional articles of interest.

Data Synthesis: Primary care physicians can aid in the diagnosis of OSA and associated ES by being vigilant for lifestyle and physical risk factors associated with this condition. In addition, primary care physicians should maintain a high level of clinical suspicion when presented with illnesses that are commonly comorbid with OSA, such as psychiatric disorders and depression, in particular. Conversely, assessment of patients with OSA for common comorbidities may also improve a patient’s prognosis and quality of life.

Conclusions: Primary care physicians play a vital role in recognizing OSA and ES. These clinicians are crucial in supporting their patients during treatment by ensuring that they have clear, concise information regarding available therapies and the correct application and maintenance of prescribed devices.

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