Denver, Colorado (PRWEB) September 24, 2013
Sleep apnea is a very real threat along the nation’s highways. In a bid to respond to the fatigued driving situation the condition can create, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has long been attempting to put through regulatory guidance focused on mandating at-risk truckers to be tested and treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Now, two members of the House have introduced a bill that could potentially lengthen the time it takes for the FMCSA recommendations to go through. These lawmakers, and the trucking industry as a whole, are concerned that only offering guidance (as opposed to a formal rule with the imprimatur of law) would leave fleets susceptible to liability.
What the new bill seeks to ensure, as described by an Occupational Health & Safety article from September 14 called "Trucking Groups Back Sleep Apnea Testing," is that actual regulations would take the place of guidance related to sleep apnea testing. To do that, the FMCSA would have to go through the formal rule-making process, which allows the administration to garner the input of industry officials and requires a cost-benefit analysis to be carried out before any rules could be set (this has been deemed essential by the trucking industry, which estimates a cost of $1 billion for the testing).
The physicians at Sleep Apnea Surgicure understand the prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea among all drivers and thus worry about this proposed bill’s potential to delay measures designed to identify and correct the condition. Stephen D. Ochs, M.D., chief medical director of Sleep Apnea Surgicure, hopes this doesn’t mean at-risk commercial drivers will delay medical screening for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
"We respect the desire in the trucking industry and among lawmakers to ensure that protective measures related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea take into account the full breadth of the issue," said Dr. Ochs. "At the same time, it’s my fervent wish that commercial drivers struggling to get a good night’s sleep don’t put off screening just because the law doesn’t yet compel diagnosis and treatment. There are many options out there for those who suffer from OSA, and they need to be explored by those in at-risk demographics."
For some, the proper therapy will hinge on the use of something called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP. Much of what the FMCSA’s pending guidance is thought to be focused on this type of initial medical therapy.
This same thinking actually dates back to a medical panel that presented findings to the FMCSA back in January 2008. At that time, the panel recommended that certification be given to those commercial drivers who submitted to CPAP treatment and who were able to demonstrate their continued usage of this type of therapy.
The panel explained that optimal CPAP usage would amount to seven hours’ worth of therapy or more during a sleep cycle. They also suggested that an absolute minimum of four hours could be deemed appropriate treatment if CPAP is used seven out of ten nights. Any less than this, and the therapy was considered to be of limited value to both correct OSA and thereby hopefully decrease the associated risks of developing conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and adult onset diabetes.
The FMCSA panel also discussed the efficacy of a maxillo-mandibular advancement (MMA) procedure in appropriate selected individuals. Some commercial drivers, like many others diagnosed with OSA, simply can’t tolerate nightly CPAP because of the unique time demands and circumstances of their job.
"It’s important to note that trucking companies and their drivers do have options when it comes to diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea," said Dr. Ochs. "We hope that commercial drivers (and future FMCSA regulations) take into account the option for curative surgery when the use of nightly CPAP is simply no longer working for them. The Get2REM operation, our proprietary MMA procedure performed on an out-patient basis, has proven both safe and effective in correcting sleep apnea by eliminating the soft tissue collapse of the upper airway that is the hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea."
No matter what the eventual outcome is in terms of sleep apnea testing requirements for commercial drivers, it’s imperative that commercial vehicle operators understand the role they play when it comes to identifying and correcting the condition. There are important issues in play here potentially impacting both public highway safety and the personal health of drivers.
Sleep Apnea Surgicure is a physician-owned healthcare enterprise headquartered in Denver whose mission is to increase awareness among the general public about both the health risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and the potential surgical cure that the Get2REM MMA procedure can offer. Dr. Stephen Ochs and Dr. Randolph Robinson are well-versed in the intricacies of sleep disorders and the various ways in which patients might seek effective treatment. Persons tired of suffering through sleep apnea are encouraged to visit the website to learn more about the treatment options available to them.