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Washington County sleep study patients can rest easier in newly remodeled center

Friday, February 29, 2008

Aurora Medical Center in Hartford improves Sleep Disorders Treatment Center

Washington County patients who suffer from a sleep disorder can rest easier. The Sleep Disorders Treatment Center at Aurora Medical Center in Hartford is now more comfortable since its recent remodeling.

"Our new rooms were created with patients in mind. They are very homelike and include a private bathroom, ceiling fans and adjustable lighting," said Tammy Apel, lead sleep technician. "It's a very cozy environment because we want patients to feel comfortable even though they're undergoing a test. That's the best way to get an accurate result."

"A good night's sleep is a key component to good health, and if a patient is not getting refreshing, deep sleep, it's important to discover the reason," said Abbas Ali, MD, medical director for the Sleep Disorder Center. Dr. Ali, a board certified sleep specialist and pulmonologist, sees patients at Aurora Health Center in Hartford and Aurora Health Center in West Bend.

"Diagnosing sleep disorders requires a comprehensive health history to help determine what might be disturbing or inhibiting a patient's ability to sleep well. Factors can include excess weight, use of caffeine, various medications or alcohol," Dr. Ali said.

Obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or excessive sleepiness are the most common reasons people visit the Sleep Disorders Treatment Center, Apel said.

"Frequent symptoms mentioned by patients are excessive daytime sleepiness, not being able to fall asleep, maintain sleep or get refreshing sleep."

According to a National Institutes of Health Web site, as many as 40 million Americans are afflicted with more than 70 different types of sleep-related problems.

To diagnose a specific disorder, a sleep study can be performed during which a patient's brain and muscle activity, oxygen levels, heart rhythm and breathing are monitored electronically. The information is then evaluated by Dr. Ali, who works closely with patients' primary care physicians to treat the disorder.

The most severe and potentially dangerous disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the patient actually stops breathing for a time, cutting off oxygen to the brain. This can cause headaches and even increase risk of stroke or heart attack.

Treatments for sleep apnea include using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. It acts as a "splint" for the patient's airway, keeping it open by pressured room air into a mask the patient wears while sleeping. Losing weight also can help address sleep apnea because obesity can make it more difficult to breathe during sleep.

Other treatment for sleep disorders may include changes in diet, sleep environment or medications.

Regardless of what the problem may be, the remodeled area helps ensure patients relax enough for the sleep study to be effective.

"The Sleep Center was moved from the second floor to a more secluded first-floor area to increase privacy," Apel said. "Patients bring their own sleepwear, and they can watch TV until bedtime.

"The sleep technician who sees the patient when he or she arrives is the same person who will monitor them until they wake up," Apel said. "We don't change shifts during the night. It not only makes the patient feel more at ease, it adds continuity. And in the morning, patients are offered coffee or juice before they're on their way."

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.


Contact: Sue Pierman (414-647-6432)

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