Continuing Education| Volume 27, ISSUE 5, P329-340, October 2012

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Caring for the Patient With Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Implications for Health Care Providers in Postanesthesia Care

      Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder affecting 18 million Americans. The prevalence of OSA is increasing due to an epidemic rise in obesity, which is a major contributing factor. The primary treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure, designed to maintain a patent airway for unobstructed breathing. OSA patients may experience postoperative hypoventilation due to residual anesthetic, analgesic requirements, and other comorbidities. Postoperative health care providers must be prepared to assess for hypoventilation and intervene using evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes. It is incumbent that the PACU nurse be aware of and implement evidence-based clinical guidelines for patients with OSA. Therefore, the purpose of this manuscript is to (1) describe the physiology, comorbidities, diagnosis, and treatment of OSA; (2) identify the effects of anesthesia in persons with OSA; (3) discuss clinical guidelines; and (4) describe implications for care in an effort to improve health outcomes in persons with OSA during the perianesthesia period.


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      Pamela D. Diffee, DNP, CRNA, is a doctoral student at the Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.


      Michelle M. Beach, DNP, CRNA, is a doctoral student at the Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.


      Norma G. Cuellar, DSN, RN, FAAN, is a Professor of Nursing at Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.