Public Release: 

Treating sleep apnea could reduce emergencies in hospitalized patients

Thomas Jefferson University


IMAGE: This is Dr. Sunil Sharma, Associate Professor of Medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. view more

Credit: Thomas Jefferson University

PHILADELPHIA - May 11, 2016 - According to research published today in PLOS ONE, treating high-risk hospitalized patients for sleep apnea may decrease the frequency of emergency rescues from hospital personnel, known as rapid response events.

"Our research showed that patients at high risk for sleep apnea experience more rapid response events during their hospital stay," said Sunil Sharma, M.D., Associate Professor in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and pulmonologist with Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center. "When we treated these patients with appropriate sleep apnea therapy, the frequency of rapid response events decreased in compliant patients."

Researchers screened 2,590 obese patients admitted to the internal medicine, family medicine and cardiology services with a validated questionnaire for sleep disordered breathing. The team found that high risk patients were more likely to experience a rapid response event (43.06 per 1,000 admissions) than low risk patients (25.91 per 1,000). High risk patients, 76 percent of patients screened, received a comprehensive sleep evaluation and started positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment if tolerable. As the team hypothesized, patients who were compliant with PAP treatment had less rapid response events (16.99 per 1,000) than those who were non-compliant (53.40 per 1,000 admissions).

Rapid response events or emergencies in the hospital included significant changes in blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, or mental status; seizure; symptoms of a stroke; or chest pain. The rapid response protocol is a safety tool designed to detect and intervene during serious and potentially fatal changes in a patient's status.

"The study suggests the important role of treating underlying sleep apnea to improve patient safety and quality in the hospital. We recommend a multi-centric prospective study to confirm these findings and determine the cost benefit of such initiative to improve hospital patient safety," Dr. Sharma said.


Competing Interests: To the best of the authors' knowledge, no conflict of interest, financial or other, exists. Dr. Sunil Sharma has unrestricted research grant from RESMED corp. This does not alter adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials. Lili Tang is statistician for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and has no conflict of interest. Leslee Willes is an independent statistician and assistance was funded by ResMed Corp.

Funding: Dr. Sunil Sharma has an unrestricted research grant from RESMED corp. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Citation: Hospitalized patients at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea have more rapid response system events and intervention is associated with reduced events. Sharma, Sunil, et al. PLOS ONE. 2016.

About Jefferson

Our newly formed organization, Jefferson, encompasses Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, representing our academic and clinical entities. Together, the people of Jefferson, 19,000 strong, provide the highest-quality, compassionate clinical care for patients, educate the health professionals of tomorrow, and discover new treatments and therapies that will define the future of health care.

Jefferson Health comprises five hospitals, 17 outpatient and urgent care locations, as well as physician practices and everywhere we deliver care throughout the city and suburbs across Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks Counties in Pa., and Camden County in New Jersey. Together, these facilities serve nearly 73,000 inpatients, 239,000 emergency patients and 1.7 million outpatient visits annually. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia. Abington Hospital is the largest community teaching hospital in Montgomery or Bucks counties. Other hospitals include Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Center City Philadelphia; Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia; and Abington-Lansdale Hospital in Hatfield Township.

Thomas Jefferson University enrolls more than 3,800 future physicians, scientists, nurses and healthcare professionals in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC), Jefferson Colleges of Biomedical Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy, Population Health and is home of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

For more information and a complete listing of Jefferson services and locations, visit

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