Concern Over Sleep Apnea and Coronavirus Transmission

Seema Khosla, MD

Sleep apnea[1] patients are particularly concerned about transmitting the coronavirus[2] disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In an interview with HCPLive®, Seema Khosla, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Sleep, explained that a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device can potentially spread the droplets further than normal breathing, putting loved ones at an increased risk of developing the virus.

Khosla said the best advice is if someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or presumes they have some symptoms of the virus then they should sleep in separate rooms and maintain distances even within the same household.

She also advised to place increased emphasis on washing your hands prior to putting on the CPAP mask.

Overall, sleep apnea patients represent 80-90% of Khosla’s practice.

As the focus in the medical community is currently on treating COVID-19 positive patients and testing as many people as possible, there still are other ailments that must be treated and routine services that are still important.

Khosla said her practice has recently switched to 100% telemedicine to ensure the safety of her staff and patients.

However, she does not expect the services to suffer much as they move into a completely digital practice because most of the patients she treats do not often require urgent care.

“Sleep is different. Sleep kind of suffers some from the lack of urgency,” she said. “How many people go to the ER because they snore? For us, pretty much anything we need to do we can capture in a telemedicine visit anyway.”

However, there is a downside, particularly if the pandemic is ongoing for a long-time, in that sleep doctors are unable to test patients for sleep apnea. Khosla the inability to properly test patients will have a financial impact on sleep centers across the country.

She also said this will likely be true for other speciality centers as well, with signficiant financial hardships for many clinic physicians.

The decline in testing is also causing delays in care for patients as doctors cannot put them on treatment programs until testing is available.

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