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Stanford University School of Medicine

Innovator addresses sleep-disordered breathing at Stanford Biodesign event

DSC_0184Sleep-disordered breathing is a "monster public health problem," Peter Farrell, PhD, recently told members of the medtech community, Stanford Biodesign trainees and alumni.

Farrell, the founder of ResMed, a global company focused on treatments for sleep apnea and other chronic respiratory disorders, spoke as part of the “From The Innovator’s Workbench" series hosted by Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, which brings health technology innovators to campus.

The conversation focused on sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a chronic disorder that includes obstructive sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome and snoring. SDB is caused by the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep, which results in a cycle of inadequate oxygen intake and arousal from sleep. Untreated SBD increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart failure, car accidents and depression, Farrell said.

According to a 2015 study, nearly 50 percent of men and 23 percent of women have moderate-to-severe SDB, the diagnostic level at which treatment is recommended. However, Farrell estimated that only 10 percent of patients with SDB are treated in the United States, and that globally, that percentage is even lower.

A common therapy for the therapy is CPAP, which prevents the collapse of the airway by supplying steady air pressure via a nasal mask worn during sleep. Although CPAP has reputation for being bulky, uncomfortable and loud, current machines mitigate those issues, making compliance more an issue of ongoing communication between patient and physician, Farrell said.

Despite its prevalence, many physicians fail to consider and test for SDB, Farrell told the audience.

“It’s clear that sleep testing needs to be more widely adopted,” commented Tom Krummel, MD, a surgeon and co-director of Stanford Biodesign. “It is actually a cost-sparing approach since treatment for SDB reverses comorbidities, and reduces the need for hospital and medical services.”

Sleep has long been a focus of innovators in biodesign. To date, four companies have come out of the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship in the areas of sleep and respiration: Tueo Health (pediatric asthma control), OneBreath (affordable mechanical ventilation), Lully (prevention of night terrors) and Ciel Medical (solving airway needs in the ICU).

Previously: When is snoring worth worrying about? A Q&A with a Stanford sleep surgeon and Sleep deprived suffer performance loss, according to new study
Photo of Peter Farrell by Stacey Paris McCutcheon

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