Clinical Trial At Stanford For Sleep Apnea Patients

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's estimated 30 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a potentially deadly disorder where people stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times a night. The largest ever clinical trial in sleep medicine is taking place right now at Stanford to evaluate what's come to be known as the gold standard for treatment.

The machine known as CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, has been used for decades to treat sleep apnea. Doctors have seen great results. But now a study involving more than 1,000 patients is underway to prove whether it truly makes a difference.

The sound you hear is air blowing. It's the key element to the CPAP device, which is believed to be the most effective non-surgical approach to treating sleep apnea. Air is gently forced into a patient's nose through a mask, keeping the airway open during sleep.

Dr. William Dement is a reknowned sleep expert at Stanford Medical School who's used CPAP on his patient for years, one since 1974.

Dr. William Dement: "He's had 33 wonderful years of life of being alert and effective and active wheras he was about to die in 1974."

But until now, there's been no definitive research on the CPAP device, and despite reports of great improvement among patients and doctors charting those results, Dr. Dement and others at the Stanford Sleep Center wanted to run a double blind clinical trial, complete with sham CPAP machines.

Dr. William Dement: "The control devices had to be absolutely the same, the same noise, same hose, same motor, everything the same, even same positive pressure."

Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, Stanford School of Medicine: "This is actually the the largest controlled trial ever funded by the National Institutes of Health for any type of sleep disorder."

Lester Martin: "I went to sleep on one of my patients. That's how bad it was."

Severe daytime sleepiness used to plague Lester Martin. It's a common side effect of sleep apnea. He signed up for the trial with one simple goal in mind.

Lester Martin: "Hopefully they'd stop me from snoring, was my greatest one, but I didn't know the energy level was going to boost me."

Lester received the real CPAP machine during the trial, along with some $12,000 dollars worth of clinical tests and $500 dollars in compensation. Dr. Dement believes the study will ultimately lead to new standards of treatment.

Dr. William Dement: "It would be reprehensible for doctors to overlook this very serious illness when there is then scientifically demonstrated successful and effective treatment."

Stanford is currently recruiting patients. It's a seven-month commitment, but again, thousands of dollars worth of medical tests are included and you don't have to have insurance. To become part of the trial, call (650) 725 - 5598.

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