Sleep apnea a concern for those with spinal cord injuries
It can be devastating to suffer a spinal cord injury at work. Not only do these injuries typically make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep working, but they can lead to debilitating conditions later on in life that require expensive medical care. Although most people may not realize it, one recent study indicates that those who have suffered spinal cord injuries should be screened for sleep apnea.
Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit examined and collected data from 26 patients with serious spinal cord injuries. Fifteen of those participating in the study had cervical injuries and 11 had thoracic injuries. They discovered that almost all of them – a full 92 percent of patients studied – suffered from poor sleep. Approximately 77 percent of patients in the study suffered from some kind of difficulty breathing while sleeping. While many patients suffered from nighttime breathing difficulties, researchers were surprised to find that the process was quite different from patient to patient.
Doctors believe that the majority of spinal cord injury patients suffer from some sort of breathing disorder, but in many cases these problems go undiagnosed. This may seem like a small issue, but suffering from sleep apnea can be a significant contributing factor in cardiovascular problems and even death in these patients.
This study is significant because it is one of the first times that researchers have sought to understand how different types of spinal cord injuries – be it cervical or thoracic – affects a patient’s ability to breathe and sleep normally. The authors of the study hope that their research will both lead to improvements in developing treatments for those with spinal cord injuries and help improve the quality of their lives. For now, their most important recommendation is that spinal cord injury patients be assessed for nighttime breathing disorders that may be affecting their sleep patterns. This may seem to be a small change, but it could potentially help thousands of people in the U.S. each year. Indeed, according to some estimates, each year sees about 200,000 serious spinal cord injuries throughout the country.
If you have suffered a serious spinal cord injury at work, speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. A workers’ compensation lawyer can provide essential information about the process and can help you get the benefits you need. For more information, speak to an attorney today.