Wednesday, July 7, 2010

September 11 Rescue Workers At-Risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The men and women who sacrificed their health to save their fellow citizens during America’s darkest hour are likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, a new study shows. Many emergency responders who rushed to ground zero in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 have developed symptoms linked to the sleep disorder.

The study published in the July edition of Sleep and Breathing reports the number of firefighters and emergency medical personnel are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea continues to increase. In 2005, more than a third of responders were at high risk. 1 in 6 rescuers who had been healthy in 2005 have since developed the symptoms.

The authors assumed rescuers with acid reflux disease or chronic sinus problems (rhinosinusitis) or self-reported health problems were at elevated risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Those who responded early to the attacks or suffered post traumatic stress may also be at risk.

The data came from regular health examinations administered by the FDNY. Members of the department undergo a physical and answer a health questionnaire every 12 to 18 months. In 2005 the FDNY began included questions about sleep problems in the medical screenings.

The study involved 11,700 male firefighters and emergency medical personnel who were on scene at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks. The researchers compared the assessment data from 2005 to the results of later screenings.

Exposure to the flying dust and debris at the disaster site is linked to significant irreversible lung damage. The measured drop in lung function for affected rescuers is about 12 times the rate associated with normal aging.

Image by Brian Boyd

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.