Nearly all patients who underwent surgery to treat oropharyngeal cancer experienced some degree of post-treatment obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to new research presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO, in San Diego.

The pilot study collected data from 22 patients treated for oropharyngeal cancer, and found that among those who underwent primary surgery with free flap reconstruction, 93% had OSA, with 67% experiencing moderate to severe OSA. Additionally, 100% of those treated with radiation or chemotherapy (including some of the surgical group) developed OSA, although only one-third of these patients had moderate or severe OSA.

The authors intend to continue their research with a larger pre-post treatment cohort study. They believe OSA may play a significant role in treatment-related fatigue in this patient population. They also contend that unrecognized OSA may lead to additional comorbidity, and the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea postoperatively may improve quality of life for these patients.