Central Sleep Apnea And Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 4, 2021

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Breathing is something we do subconsciously, which means we don’t have to think about doing it in order for our bodies to perform the action. This subconscious action is why we’re able to go about our day and get a good night’s sleep without needing to think about performing the act of breathing. However, sometimes this subconscious act gets interrupted, and when that happens, breathing can stop. As you might imagine, this can be very problematic for an individual.

This condition is known as sleep apnea, and it affects millions of Americans every day. The condition can develop for a number of different reasons, and the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea in which a mechanical issue with your subconscious breathing causes you to stop and start the process. However, there’s another form of the condition known as central sleep apnea, and the root of the problem can be housed in your spinal canal. We take a closer look at central sleep apnea and explain how a spine surgeon can help with the problem in today’s blog.

Sleep Apnea And Spine Surgery

Central sleep apnea develops when a nerve issue causes an interruption of subconscious breathing. In other words, there exists a disconnect between the patient’s brain and the muscles that regulate breathing, and the appropriate signals to perform the action are not sent. The condition can be caused by a nerve issue in the brainstem or spinal cord. It can also be caused by a spinal problem that is compressing key nerves in your spine.

While the condition is rare, one of the most common spine-related causes of central sleep apnea is from a herniated disc. When a spinal disc shifts out of place because of stress or acute injury, it can impinge nearby spinal nerves. Depending on which disc herniates and how far it shifts, it’s certainly possible that the spinal disc could interfere with nerve pathways that regulate breathing.

Another rare spine-related cause of central sleep apnea is in the wake of spine surgery. In the event that the operation involves installing hardware that ends up affecting a nerve, or if a nerve is damaged during the procedure, you could also develop central sleep apnea. This is extremely rare, and it’s just another reason why Dr. Sinicropi and his team rely on precision guidance to ensure no nearby structures are affected during the operation.

Finally, a significant spinal injury could also damage the nerves that control subconscious breathing. A traumatic injury to the spinal cord or catastrophic injuries that can occur in a car accident may result in spinal nerve damage that leads to breathing problems.

Treatment Options

The good news is that many cases of spine-related central sleep apnea can be treated and corrected. By taking care of the disc herniation, you can also help prevent interruptions in this nerve relay and cure yourself of your central sleep apnea condition. It’s also one reason why you should never put off treatment for a herniated disc. The longer the nerves are compressed, the more damage that can occur, meaning you may still have nerve issues even after the disc is shifted back to the correct location.

So if you are noticing a decline in sleep quality or you’ve been diagnosed with central sleep apnea, consider reaching out to a spine specialist to see if they can kill two birds with one stone. With appropriate care of your disc condition, we may be able to solve your breathing disruptions. For more information or for help with your spine condition, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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