Sleep Apnea

This information explains what sleep apnea is. It what also describes what to do before and after your surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) if you have sleep apnea.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder. It causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time when you’re sleeping.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your airway becomes completely blocked during sleep. OSA can be a serious risk for death after surgery.

Common symptoms of OSA

Please tell us if you have any of the symptoms below. These can be signs of sleep apnea.

  • Loud snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Fatigue

Breathing machines for sleep apnea

If you use a breathing machine (such as a CPAP) for sleep apnea:

  • If your surgery is at Memorial Hospital (MSK’s main hospital), bring your CPAP machine with you on the day of your surgery.
  • If your surgery is at the Josie Robertson Surgery Center (JRSC), bring your CPAP machine with you on the day of your surgery.
  • If your surgery is at MSK Monmouth, you don’t need to bring your CPAP machine.
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Keeping You Safe During Surgery

Sleep apnea can cause serious problems during and after surgery. We will do things before, during, and after your surgery to keep you safe.

  • During your presurgical testing appointment, a nurse practitioner will ask you questions to see if you may have sleep apnea. These questions include:
    • Do you snore loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?
    • Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime?
    • Has anyone seen you stop breathing while you were asleep?
    • Do you have high blood pressure? Are you being treated for high blood pressure?
  • During and after your surgery, we will put a special clip on your finger if we know you’re at risk for sleep apnea or have sleep apnea. The clip will measure the oxygen in your blood. It will sound an alarm if you aren’t getting enough oxygen.
  • After your surgery, we will change the way we give you pain medication. Certain pain medications can make sleep apnea much worse. You will still get pain medication to keep you comfortable and manage your pain.
  • We will make sure your doctors and nurses know that you’re at risk for sleep apnea or have sleep apnea.
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Sleep Apnea and Your Health

Sleep apnea can cause many problems.

  • Because they may be sleepy during the day, people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of accidents from:
    • Driving while sleepy
    • Falling asleep on the job
  • Snoring strains your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. This can lead to:
    • Diabetes
    • Serious heart problems
    • Serious lung problems
  • Untreated OSA can lead to, or worsen:
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart failure
    • Stroke
    • Irregular heart beat

We will do everything we can to make sure you’re safe while you’re in the hospital. We hope you will go a step further and talk with your local healthcare provider about how to treat your sleep apnea. We recommend that you ask them to refer you to a sleep center. You can also contact a sleep center on your own. Treating your sleep apnea will help to prevent serious health problems in the future.

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