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Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Michael Jacobson, M.D.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Dr. Jacobson graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Maryland and his fellowship at the University of Illinois. A cofounder of Georgia Retina, he has been a principal investigator of numerous clinical trials and a speaker at state, national and international meetings. He has authored a textbook chapter and published numerous articles, abstracts and papers in peer-reviewed journals.

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Dr. Faria Khan

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
Dr. Faria Khan

Dr. Faria Khan

Dr. Faria Khan is a board certified adult and pediatric allergist originally from Eufaula, Alabama. She attended Auburn University for her undergraduate studies and earned her MD at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. She did her internal medicine residency at Emory here in Atlanta after which she practiced internal medicine in Pensacola, Florida for a few years. She decided to specialize in the field of allergy and completed fellowship (specialty) training at Baylor in Houston, Texas. She first practiced allergy in Houston at McGovern Allergy and Asthma Clinic and then returned to Atlanta where she practiced in Alpharetta and Johns Creek for the past few years before joining Atlanta ENT, Sinus & Allergy Associates, PC.

In addition to her allergy career, Dr. Khan is heavily involved in organized medicine in order to improve healthcare for patients across the state of Georgia. She is a member of the Board of Directors and Communication Chair of the Medical Association of Atlanta (MAA). She is also a member of the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) and was recently appointed to the MAG Judiciary Committee. She has served as a Delegate to the House of Delegates through MAG for the past two years. She is also a part of the current class of the Georgia Physicians Leadership Academy. Finally, she is part of the Member Relations committee for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI).

Dr. Khan enjoys all the different aspects of allergy including allergic rhinitis, skin allergies, asthma, and eye allergies.

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Dian “Tossy” Fogle, M.D.

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
Dian Fogle

Dian “Tossy” Fogle, M.D.

Dr. Fogle is a perinatologist at Georgia Perinatal Consultants. She received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University and her M.D. from LSU in New Orleans. She completed her residency and fellowship at Emory University. Dr. Fogle is board certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Her primary interests include prenatal diagnosis and complications of pregnancy. Dr. Fogle is on staff at Northside Hospital, Piedmont Hospital and WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center.

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Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to Lead National Sickle Cell Study

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Dr. KrishnamurtiThe sickle cell program at the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been named the lead coordinating center for a National Institute of Health study to determine the safety and effectiveness of bone marrow transplants compared to standard care therapies to cure sickle cell disease in young adult patients.

Dr. Lakshmanan Krishnamurti, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Children’s, will lead the STRIDE study (Sickle Cell Transplant to Prevent Disease Exacerbation) with 26 institutions around the country. Dr. Krishnamurti developed the study hoping to bolster medicine’s support of BMTs for young adults, determining its safety and feasibility in treating sickle cell disease.

“Since the 1980’s, advances in research and technology have led to improved outcomes for children receiving bone marrow transplants,” said Dr. Krishnamurti. “With pediatric patients responding better than ever before, we want to study the long term effects of BMTs to determine whether they will be as effective in curing young adults of sickle cell disease.”

Dr. Krishnamurti was the first physician in the world to perform a reduced-intensity bone marrow transplant in a patient with sickle cell disease while at the University of Minnesota in 1999.

More than two decades ago, young patients with severe cases of sickle cell disease received bone marrow transplants (BMT) as researchers searched for a cure. The procedure came with high risks of negative effects and life-threatening complications at the time.

“It resulted in the research community abandoning the idea of transplants for young adults,” said Dr. Krishnamurti. “But today, with more refined procedures and better knowledge, transplants could be a viable option for young adults suffering from severe sickle cell disease.”

Sickle cell disease is estimated to affect up to 100,000 Americans. It is a hereditary blood disorder, which disproportionally affects African Americans and causes a host of acute and chronic conditions, including debilitating pain.

Success will be measured by patients’ “event-free” survival for at least a year. In addition, Dr. Krishnamurti hopes that the study could show how BMTs help reverse some of the damage caused by sickle cell disease in a patient’s organs.

More importantly, Dr. Krishnamurti says he hopes to see as much success with the young adults as he has with the children. “It’s very exciting to work with the young adult population on this. And this time, we might be able to offer a cure,” he said.

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Piedmont Atlanta Hospital Announces New CEO

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Patrick BatteyFollowing a year of leading as co-CEO, Patrick Battey, M.D., assumed the role as sole CEO of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital on Jan. 1, 2016.

Dr. Battey is the first physician to serve as CEO since Piedmont opened in 1905. Only 5 percent of hospitals in the United States are led by a physician, according to the American College of Physician Executives, which industry experts expect to change. This appointment acknowledges Piedmont’s heritage and adds to the growing number of hospitals that have physicians in CEO positions.

“We are entering a new era of medicine and will experience more healthcare change in the next three years than we’ve experienced in the past 25 years,” Dr. Battey said. “Practicing physicians need to be at the table as healthcare changes. Physicians can’t continue the same practices as they have in the past – now is the time for physicians and hospital leaders to listen, collaborate and lead.”

As a clinician involved in medical staff leadership throughout his career, Dr. Battey will help reinforce the hospital’s reputation for patient-centered care and sustain the hospital as an important health resource for the community, even as the health care landscape changes. Dr. Battey plans to approach his new role with an eye toward excellence in care and collaborate with all disciplines to ensure quality remains the top priority.

Prior to his role as co-CEO, Dr. Battey led Piedmont Healthcare as interim CEO when former CEO R. Timothy Stack passed away suddenly in 2012. Guiding the system during a time of transition – the system had just acquired its fifth and second-largest hospital – Dr. Battey demonstrated how his business skills and clinical background can help shape and redefine the system’s healthcare product.

“Dr. Battey brings more than credentials to the table,” said Kevin Brown, Piedmont Healthcare CEO. “For years, he has cared for our patients, forged meaningful relationships and served the community. His vision to provide patient-centered care that is anchored in quality reflects what we deliver every day at Piedmont.”

A vascular surgeon with Piedmont Heart Institute, Dr. Battey plans to continue his clinical practice in both the office and operating room on a scaled back schedule.

The Augusta native earned his medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine before completing his residency in general surgery and a fellowship in vascular surgery at Emory University affiliated hospitals. He is a Fellow with the American College of Surgeons, Society for Vascular Surgery and Atlanta Vascular Society.

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Bariatrics

Monday, December 21st, 2015

By Helen K. Kelley

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (34.9 percent) of all adults in the U.S. are obese, and the rate of adult obesity in the U.S. nearly tripled from 1960 to 2010.

Many individuals who fall into the overweight or morbidly obese categories are desperately searching for a “magic” solution that will take away the pounds permanently. Frustrated with diets and pills that often provide only temporary results, thousands of people are lining up for bariatric procedures, which may provide the closest thing to the permanent solution they seek.

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective and durable treatment for morbid obesity, and it helps prevent, improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related diseases or conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea and some cancers.

Atlanta Medicine recently spoke with two Atlanta-area bariatric physicians, who shared their knowledge of how the bariatric landscape has changed over the past several years.

Surgical and Non-Surgical Options Improve Patients’ Weight Loss Success

Jean-Pierre Fritz

Jean-Pierre Fritz, M.D

According to Fritz Jean-Pierre, M.D., a bariatric surgeon with WellStar Health System, improvements in both surgical and nonsurgical options over the past 10 years have resulted in both giving patients better weight loss and giving physicians the ability to better predict that weight loss.

He says the most notable change has been an increase in the selection of a more invasive surgery, the gastric sleeve, over the once-popular lap band and other procedures. The gastric sleeve (sleeve gastrectomy) actually removes approximately 80 percent of the stomach, leaving a tubular pouch that resembles a banana. This procedure, which is less complicated than many other types of bariatric surgery, now comprises over 60 percent of all weight loss surgery procedures performed in the U.S.

“There has been a huge switch in choice of surgeries today. We’ve seen a large increase in patients selecting the sleeve gastrectomy in the past five years,” says Dr. Jean-Pierre. “In addition, we are better able to evaluate our patients’ metabolic conditions today, which helps us in making recommendations for the most appropriate weight loss option.”

Dr. Jean-Pierre adds that non-surgical options can also be very good solutions for some patients who desire to lose weight, especially children and adolescents.

“One of the partners in our practice is an obesity specialist who helps patients determine the weight-loss options available to them and which of those options is best suited. Sometimes, diet and exercise are a better approach,” he says. “For young patients, this is often the first and best choice rather than a surgical intervention, which causes lifelong changes.”

For the patient with a very high Body Mass Index (BMI) and/or various comorbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure, Dr. Jean-Pierre says the more aggressive gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass) may be the best option.

Christopher J. Hart

Christopher J. Hart, M.D.

“The gastric bypass is still considered the ‘gold standard’ of weight loss surgeries,” he says. “While it’s more invasive, it has a high rate of success for significant long-term weight loss.”

Lifestyle Change is Key Part of Solution

Christopher J. Hart, M.D., chief of staff and medical director of the Atlanta Bariatric Center at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, says that long-term weight loss success depends on the patient’s commitment to making permanent lifestyle changes to ensure that success after surgery.

“Once a person’s BMI rises above the 30-35 percent range, long-term weight loss with just diet and exercise becomes much harder; it becomes about deprivation,” he says. “So the nice thing about bariatric surgery is that it results in the patient being able to eat less and still feel satisfied.”

However, to obtain lasting results, the patient still has to make lifestyle changes after surgery.

“I tell my patients, ‘I can do a technically perfect surgery, but you will still not lose the weight and get healthy unless you hold up your end of the deal – which means good nutrition and exercise,” he says.

Dr. Hart adds that data compiled over the years for different bariatric procedures is an important tool in developing treatments that can help patients achieve permanent weight loss.

“For example, in the early days of the lap band procedure, there was some experimentation – after a patient reached his or her goal weight, the band was removed. The hope was that the patient had made lifestyle changes that would keep the weight off and would no longer need the band for continued support. The data showed that patients regained the weight because their hunger drive returned,” he says. “It’s important to follow our patients throughout the course of their lives so that we can monitor their progress and success as well as compile data that will be helpful in the future. We can use that data to determine success rates and complications, as well as see how we compare against national statistics.”

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When Less is More: Single-Site Robotic Surgery Offers Improvements for Surgeon and Patient

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

By Helen K. Kelley

From ATLANTA Medicine, Vol. 85, No. 4

robotic surgeryAs minimally invasive surgery becomes a more common and popular option for patients undergoing certain medical procedures, the technology used to perform these procedures is constantly evolving. New techniques allow doctors to perform both minor and complex surgeries as outpatient procedures, with only a few small incisions – a great improvement over open surgeries that formerly required much larger incisions, along with lengthier hospital stays and recovery times for patients.

Robotic laparoscopic surgery, performed with the assistance of technology such as the da Vinci® Surgical System, is now considered the gold standard of treatment for many medical conditions. Robotic surgery has reduced the number of open surgeries for common operations by enhancing the surgeon’s capabilities in performing minimally invasive procedures.

Improving patient and surgeon experience

Introduced in the late 1990s, the da Vinci® Surgical System continues to undergo enhancements that are changing and improving the surgical experience for both surgeon and patient.

Recent improvements have created a more efficient surgical environment for the OR staff. During the procedure, the surgeon sits at a console that offers a 3-D high-definition image of the patient – while viewing that image, the surgeon then uses controls to manipulate robotic arms with tools to perform the surgery.

In earlier years, the robot was permanently docked at the beginning of a surgery. If the patient required repositioning, surgical staff then had to stop and also reposition the robot. Today’s da Vinci’s® systems allow the surgeon and OR staff to move around to different regions of the patient’s anatomy without undocking the robot. Also, the system’s camera is no longer stationary as in previous generations of the technology – it can now be moved and placed on any one of the robotic arms at any time.

Additionally, new tools are giving surgeons even better precision for certain procedures, with improved results for the patient.

For example, laparoscopic cholecystectomy (laparoscopic gallbladder removal) – a big advancement over what was previously an open surgery that meant several days in the hospital for the patient – is an outpatient procedure that involves four approximately inch-long incisions in the abdomen. Now, a recent technological improvement has made an even less invasive procedure possible. Single-Site™ Instrumentation is a new operating platform attached to the da Vinci® Si™ Surgical System that allows surgeons to remove the gallbladder through a single incision.

Patrick Kenney, D.O., a board-certified general surgeon at North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, first observed the da Vinci® Surgical System more than 10 years ago. Though impressed with its ability to increase precision in laparoscopic surgeries, he knew the system was somewhat limited in its applications at the time. Later, when the manufacturer added some helpful tools, Kenney decided to undergo training to begin using the system.

“In the first few years, the system only worked well for certain operations, such as gynecological procedures,” he says. “But when da Vinci developed improved technologies and added devices to seal blood vessels and staple, it opened up new applicability.”

Dr. Kenney, who began performing laparoscopic procedures using the da Vinci® Si™ Surgical System a little over two years ago, says the newest development is making some procedures, such as gallbladder removal, less invasive than ever before.

“The single-site platform features improved instrumentation that allows surgeons to perform certain procedures with only one incision,” he explains. “So now, a gallbladder removal can be done by making one small incision through the belly button – and the patient has less pain and scarring.”

The single-incision technique also offers surgeons much-improved control over the instrumentation, according to Dr. Kenney.

“I have better visualization and precision when I perform these procedures,” he states. “I feel that it leads to safer surgeries and improved outcomes for the patients, like less blood loss, less pain, fewer complications and faster recovery time.”

robotic surgery 2Where’s the scar?

Clara Parry, a patient of Dr. Kenney’s, says she was pleased to have the option of single-site surgery. Parry, who ended up in the emergency room during a recent gall bladder attack, was examined by Dr. Kenney and offered the choice of a four-incision removal or a single incision.

“The single incision just sounded like the right way to go. One incision versus four seems more logical,” she says. “And the recovery was really not bad at all.”

Parry underwent the procedure on a Thursday. By the following Monday, she was already getting out of the house to do errands.

“I’d never had surgery before. But this was not at all what I was expecting. I woke up in the recovery room and asked if it was over!” she recalls. “I was a little uncomfortable, but I didn’t have any nausea and needed very little pain medication. I was able to shower right away and it felt good to get up and walk.”

Parry and Kenney agree that the single incision has an additional benefit.

“Belly buttons hide scars wonderfully!” Dr. Kenney says.

“There’s just a small scar,” adds Parry. “You’d have to really be looking for it to see it.”

About Single-Port Laparoscopy

Single-port laparoscopy (SPL), or single-incision laparoscopic surgery, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the surgeon operates almost exclusively through a single entry point, typically the patient’s navel. Unlike a traditional multi-port laparoscopic approach, SPL leaves only a single scar.

SPL has been used to perform many types of surgery, including:

• adjustable gastric banding

• appendectomy

• cholecystectomy

• colectomy

• hernia repair

• hysterectomy

• sleeve gastrectomy

• nephrectomy

• sacrocolpopexy

Benefits include less postoperative pain, less blood loss, faster recovery time and better cosmetic results.

However, there may also be complications from SPL, such as significant postoperative pain, injury to organs, bleeding, infection, incisional hernia, intestinal adhesions and scarring.

The Whole Team

The da Vinci Si System is an integration of advanced technologies, including:

Firefly™ Fluorescence Imaging. The Firefly Fluorescence Imaging Vision System enables surgeons to use a special video camera and glowing dye to view blood flowing in vessels, and tissue or bile moving through ducts during minimally invasive surgical procedures. It is intended to provide real-time endoscopic visible and near-infrared fluorescence imaging. Firefly enables minimally invasive surgery using standard endoscopic visible light as well as visual assessment of vessels, blood flow and related tissue perfusion, and at least one of the major extrahepatic bile ducts (cystic duct, common bile duct and common hepatic duct), using near infrared imaging.

Single-Site®. Single-Site’s transumbilical entry enables a virtually scarless surgery. Instruments and camera cross within the Single-Site port and use remote center technology to avoid cannula collisions, arm interferences and port-site movement. Single-Site is commercially available for laparoscopic cholecystectomy, hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy for benign conditions only.

Skills Simulator™. Skills Simulator’s built-in metrics enable users to assess skills, receive real-time feedback and track progress. Administrative tools let users structure their own curriculum to fit with other learning activities in their institution. The open architecture of the system software allows for the future development and incorporation of additional practice modules.

Advanced Instrumentation. The Si System enables mechanical function of advanced instruments including EndoWrist One Vessel Sealer and EndoWrist Stapler 45.

 

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Giving Back in Big Ways

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

By Helen K. Kelley

From ATLANTA Medicine, Vol. 86, No. 1

When it comes to philanthropic causes, physicians are often on the front lines. Here, we feature some Atlanta doctors who are making a difference in the lives of others, both at home and across the miles.

Dr. Charles Moore

Dr. Charles Moore

Providing free care and education to Atlanta’s uninsured

When Charles E. Moore, M.D., a head and neck cancer specialist with Grady Health System, saw that many of his patients had limited treatment options because they had sought help too late, he began looking for the reasons why.

“I found that most of my patients were coming from three zip codes in medically underserved areas around Grady, and that many of them had cancers that could have been easily treated if the disease had been identified early. There was a need for education and increased awareness,” he says. “Some of my patients would come to me, asking me to visit certain areas and provide help. I knew I needed to do something for these people.”

Dr. Moore began conducting what he calls “Tupperware clinics” out of the back of his car. Armed with medical supplies, he drove out into the community, visiting  nontraditional areas like homeless shelters, bridges and overpasses to talk about head and neck cancers and do screenings. There, he saw all of the additional medical needs that weren’t being addressed in people who had no access to care.  He recruited colleagues to help provide primary and specialized care.

From those humble beginnings, the initiative grew – the physicians began operating out of mobile health units and then a comprehensive medical facility, the HEALing Community Center, was established. Today the Center, located in downtown Atlanta, offers free and sliding scale healthcare to the uninsured, including primary, pediatrics and specialized care, and behavioral and mental health services.

Additionally, the Center focuses on teaching people about prevention, offering health, nutrition and cooking classes, and even one-on-one health coaching. Dr. Moore hosts a regular event called “Walk With a Doc,” in which he invites a specific community to hear a brief talk about health and then go on a one- to three-mile walk with him.

Dr. Moore says there are so many small things that make the project rewarding.

“People are so grateful for the help, and they’re hungry for the knowledge,” he says. “We help them take small steps toward improving their health and, in some aspects, their lives. We can provide them with hope that there’s a chance for something better. That’s the biggest reward.”

There is always a need for more physicians in primary care and various specializations to volunteer at the HEALing Community Center and participate in community outreach activities. For more information, call 404-564-7749 or go to www.healingourcommunities.org.

Dr. Deborah Martin

Dr. Deborah Martin

Bringing hope to rural Ghana

“Imagine what life would be like with no access to healthcare, no hospital or doctors in your community, nowhere to turn when illness or injury strikes you or a loved one. This is a reality for the inhabitants of rural Ghana, where children and adults die of pandemic disease and disabling conditions that are both treatable and preventable.”

This is the introduction shared on The Yonkofa Project’s website. The Yonkofa Project was born from the experiences of Dr. Gabriella Nanci and Dr. Deborah Martin, who first traveled together to Ghana on a short-term medical mission in 2010. There, the doctors found that many of the rural villagers’ diseases could be prevented with basic access to medicine and preventive care.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Nanci conceived the project and together with Dr. Martin formed a nonprofit to bring sustainable healthcare to the remote areas of this struggling country.“Yonkofa,” which means “friendship” in the local Twi language, was chosen as the name. Building plans were developed, the land for the first clinic was donated, and, in the rainforest village of Yiwabra, The Yonkofa Project took root.

“There are not many hospitals in Ghana; the nearest one to Yiwabra is a regional facility located more than an hour’s drive away. Getting a taxi to come to the village is almost impossible and the villagers can’t afford cab fare anyway. There is such a need for primary care clinics throughout the country,” Dr. Martin says. “Dr. Nanci and I wanted to take part in something that involved more than just occasional short-term medical missions to Ghana. We wanted to created a sustainable source of primary medical care.”

The Yonkofa Project is not simply a philanthropic effort by American doctors. It is a growing collaboration that includes physicians, local residents, Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the University of Ghana and more. The clinic in Yiwabra is well underway, with two buildings constructed from prefabricated components that often take several months to arrive via cargo containers.

“The village chiefs donated the land for the clinic, and the local villagers are doing most of the construction with supervision by a Ghanaian engineer,” Dr. Martin says. “The difference in what we’re doing is in the partnerships and the teamwork. We have made the connections to establish something permanent.”

Dr. Martin says that the goal of the project doesn’t stop with the completion of the clinic in Yiwabra.

“Our hope is to build a new clinic in a different region of Ghana each year until there is a source of primary care available to every Ghanaian citizen,” she says.

Learn more about The Yonkofa Project by visiting www.yonkofa.org.

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Dr. William Silver to Join the Atlanta Institute for Aesthetic Facial Surgery

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
William E. Silver, MD

William E. Silver, MD

Dr. William Silver, who has practiced facial plastic surgery in North Atlanta for over 30 years, is moving practices. He is now undertaking a new assignment at the Atlanta Institute for Aesthetic Facial Surgery. He is joining Dr. Pradeep Sinha and will be seeing his old and new patients at his new office.

Dr. Silver is very active in local, state and national medical societies. He has been president of the Medical Association of Atlanta and the Medical Association of Georgia, and  he was the first president of the Atlanta Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery Society. He also served as president of the Georgia Society of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Society, where he was awarded the Gerald Gussik Teaching Award and the Lester Brown Service award. On a national level, Dr. Silver served as the vice president of the American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He is a board examiner for the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and is triple board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology, the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Dr. Silver continues to educate others on Facial Plastic Surgery through his writings and local and national lectures. He is a clinical professor at both the Medical College of Georgia and Emory University Otolaryngology Departments, where he interacts with the residency teaching programs.

Dr. Silver also serves as a fellowship director for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, where he has been teaching new fellows for the past 20 years. In addition to his background in cosmetic facial procedures such as blepharoplasties, facelifts, and otoplasties, he is world-renowned for his experience with rhinoplasty and revision rhinoplasty, having performed over 10,000 rhinoplasties in his practice career.

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Sleep Medicine: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Can be Difficult for Almost Half of the U.S. Population

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Helen K. Kelley

From ATLANTA Medicine, Vol. 85, No. 5

Scott M. Leibowitz, M.D.

Scott M. Leibowitz, M.D.

Sleep disturbances and disorders can cause, and are often intertwined, with a myriad of health issues, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity and more. Physicians who specialize in sleep medicine evaluate, diagnose and manage conditions such as sleeplessness, sleepiness, fatigue and abnormal behaviors during sleep.

Sleep Disorders by the Numbers

Scott M. Leibowitz, M.D., a board-certified sleep medicine specialist with Laureate Medical Group, which has six metro Atlanta locations, cites the most common sleep disorders as classic insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorders, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and parasomnias. Many of these disorders, he says, are markedly common.

“Sleep problems can affect about 35 to 40 percent of the general population at any one time,” he says. “And there are certain populations in which we see an increase in the prevalence of sleep-related complaints.”

According to Dr. Leibowitz:

  • Between 10 to 15 percent of the general population experience chronic insomnia, defined as difficulties falling or staying asleep with subsequent daytime symptoms such as fatigue or reduced cognitive function.
  •  The elderly have the greatest number of sleep-related complaints.
  •  Adolescents also have a significant number of sleep disorders.
  •  Women are at greater risk for sleep disorders than men.
  •   Roughly 40 percent of people age 60+ complain of insomnia or disrupted sleep.
  •  Sleep apnea is prevalent in post-menopausal women, and the incidence nears that of men at that same age.

Additionally, several diseases and conditions carry increased risks associated with sleep pathology, including heart failure, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, sleep apnea, stroke and diabetes.

Robert J. Albin, M.D.

Robert J. Albin, M.D.

Risky Business

Sleep deprivation poses health risks to people of all ages. Robert J. Albin, M.D., who specializes in pulmonary disease and sleep medicine with North Atlanta Pulmonary and Sleep Specialists, says that lack of sleep not only causes or exacerbates many health problems, but also affects critical thinking, which can influence a person’s ability to judge risks and make decisions.

“Many accidents and man-made disasters have been linked to sleep deprivation. For example, Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl, the tugboat accident in New York City … these were all caused by someone who fell asleep at the switch or had impaired judgment,” he says. “There’s a lot of speculation now about single car crashes – that they may be related to sleep deprivation. Both quality and quantity of sleep can affect decision-making.”

Sleep performs several critical health functions, including repairing neural damage and consolidating thoughts and memories. Chronic sleep deprivation can result in decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, reduced quality of life and even physical injury.

“Sleep is somewhat like rebooting or restoring a computer,” Dr. Albin says. “If we’re not sleeping well, we’re not repairing our hard drive properly.”

Targeted Treatments

While drug therapy, cognitive-behavior modification and CPAP and other mouth devices remain the primary treatments for sleep disorders, there are some new medications that hold promise for people experiencing sleep deprivation. These medications, such as Baclofen and Belsomra, allow for more targeted treatment of specific disorders.

Baclofen, a drug used to treat muscle spasticity for more than 50 years, is undergoing testing in mice by researchers at SRI International. Their findings show that Baclofen, which targets a deficiency of the neurotransmitter hypocretin, works better at treating narcolepsy than the best drug currently available for the disorder.

Belsomra (suvorexant) is a medication recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as needed to treat insomnia. An orexin receptor antagonist, Belsomra is the first approved drug of this type. Orexins are chemicals that help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and play a role in keeping people awake. Belsomra alters the signaling of orexin in the brain.

Trending

Research suggests the growing possibility of a link between lack of sleep and obesity. In fact, a recent study conducted by MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston found compelling evidence that chronic sleep deprivation increases both obesity and adiposity in children as young as seven.

According to Dr. Albin, sleep abnormalities contribute to the abnormal regulation of neurohormones, which control appetite.

“Ghrelin is the hormone that signals hunger, and leptin is the hormone that signals satiety,” he says. “People with sleep disorders frequently have increased ghrelin levels and decreased levels of leptin, and the result is weight gain.”

Another growing trend in sleep disorders in both adults and children is related to technology. While it’s certainly not a new trend, Dr. Leibowitz says that sleep deprivation has evolved and escalated continuously since the invention of electricity.

“Everyone has an internal biological clock that determines his or her optimal window for sleeping and waking. Light has an affect on these circadian rhythms,” he says. “When we introduce light that is in close proximity to our eyes – from sources like computers, cell phones and televisions – it signals our brains to suppress the output of melatonin, which is a hormone that is critical for regulating our sleep and wake patterns. So we can see a more pronounced delay in the sleep patterns of those people who are addicted to their technology.”

In the news: treating sleep apnea in cardiac patients reduces hospital readmission.

A study of hospitalized cardiac patients is the first to show that effective treatment with positive airway pressure therapy reduces 30-day hospital readmission rates and emergency department visits in patients with both heart disease and sleep apnea.

Results show that none of the cardiac patients with sleep apnea who had adequate adherence to PAP therapy were readmitted to the hospital or visited the emergency department for a heart problem within 30 days from discharge. In contrast, hospital readmission or emergency department visits occurred in 30 percent of cardiac patients with sleep apnea who had partial PAP use and 29 percent who did not use PAP therapy.

The study results are published in the Oct. 15, 2014, issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which is published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The study involved 104 consecutive patients who reported symptoms of sleep apnea while being hospitalized for a cardiac condition such as heart failure, arrhythmias or myocardial infarction.

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