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This article has been peer reviewed and was published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 199-207.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.1784.. Copyright © American Academy of Sleep Medicine


Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a common sleep related breathing disorder. Its prevalence is estimated to be between 2% and 25% in the general population. However, the prevalence of sleep apnea is much higher in patients undergoing elective surgery. Sedation and anesthesia have been shown to increase the upper airway collapsibility and therefore increasing the risk of having postoperative complications in these patients. Furthermore, the majority of patients with sleep apnea are undiagnosed and therefore are at risk during the perioperative period. It is important to identify these patients so that appropriate actions can be taken in a timely fashion. In this review article, we will discuss the epidemiology of sleep apnea in the surgical population. We will also discuss why these patients are at a higher risk of having postoperative complications, with the special emphasis on the role of anesthesia, opioids, sedation, and the phenomenon of REM sleep rebound. We will also review how to identify these patients preoperatively and the steps that can be taken for their perioperative management.

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