Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Did Sleep Apnea Cause the Death of State Representative Donatucci?


In the debate about whether CPAP or oral appliances are a better treatment for sleep apnea, sometimes there comes along an opportunity that is too good to miss. Consider, for example, the recent story of the Pennsylvania state representative who died of sleep apnea because the CPAP mask was too uncomfortable to wear.

Or did he? According to reputable sources, the actual cause of Rep. Donatucci's death is currently unknown, but because of its association with sleep apnea and CPAP, the forces of oral appliances have taken up the cause to promote his death as evidence that sleep apnea, and by extension ineffective treatments like CPAP, kills. However, it is unclear that this is the story at all.

Rep. Robert C. Donatucci was a Philadelphia democrat who was overweight and, it seems, had been positively diagnosed with sleep apnea the week before his death. He had been encouraged to try sleep apnea treatment with CPAP, but found the mask too uncomfortable. Instead, he planned to lose weight and try other lifestyle changes to treat his condition. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to lose his weight.

This leads us to two questions: Does sleep apnea kill? And Did sleep apnea kill Rep. Donatucci?

The answer to the first question is yes, although not acutely. Sleep apnea causes physical and psychological problems that increase your risk of all-cause mortality sixfold, according to at least one study. Death could be caused by heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular damage related to sleep apnea. Or it could be caused by a car crash, whose risks are increased by the daytime sleepiness that sleep apnea causes.

The answer to the second question is a little harder to come by. We do not have access to the full amount of information we need to answer it. However, it is likely that sleep apnea contributed to the representative's death.

If a person dies only one week after being diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is unlikely that any treatment method could save his or her life. This stresses again the need to undergo a sleep study if you have any of the known risk factors for sleep apnea, including being overweight, snoring, or having daytime sleepiness.

To learn more about sleep apnea diagnosis, please contact a local sleep dentist and head off the dangers before they become irreversible.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 2:53 PM