American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting
American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting
April 21, 2018
1 min read

Internists ‘ideally suited’ to handle changing dynamic of obstructive sleep apnea

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Barbara Phillps
Barbara Phillips

NEW ORLEANS — ‘Old school’ mindsets regarding obstructive sleep apnea, such as who treats these patients and components of the disorder are changing, according to a presenter at the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting.

“It’s a pleasure to see so many of you here,” Barbara Phillips, MD, MSPH, professor of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at the University of Kentucky, College of Medicine told attendees. “You are the best hope for the future of sleep medicine,” noting that the number of sleep specialists will decrease by 50% in 5 years.

“There won’t be enough board-certified specialists to treat the number of patients who have sleep apnea. These people are going to need to be managed by others and I believe internists are ideally suited to fill that role,” she said.

“You get the patient’s big picture,” she explained. “You get all their comorbidities that people with obstructive sleep apnea have, like diabetes and hypertension, you are managing those conditions anyway, so obstructive sleep apnea will fit nicely into your wheel house.”

Other changes are occurring in the physical characteristics of many of those with sleep apnea, how many people have it, and how to help these patients. Phillips said.

“Obesity is the single most important risk factor for sleep apnea, but it’s certainly not the only one. People with Class II malocclusion and large tonsils are also at risk as well.

“[In addition], the ‘classic’ prevalence of sleep apnea — 2% for women, 4% for men — was based on people 30 to60 years old, 20 years ago. More recent data suggests a conservative prevalence of 9% to 17%, depending on definitions and population studied.” - by Janel Miller


Phillips, B. Common sleep disorders. Presented at: American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting; April 17-21, 2018; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Phillips reports no relevant financial disclosures.