Sleep apnoea and elective surgery: what are the risks?

John R Wheatley



Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) increases the risk of serious perioperative cardiorespiratory complications. Preoperative diagnosis and management of OSA will help to prevent adverse patient outcomes during the immediate postoperative period.

Key Points

  • Undiagnosed OSA is extremely common in the elective surgery population.
  • Untreated moderate to severe OSA increases the risk of serious postoperative cardiorespiratory complications.
  • The STOP–Bang questionnaire can help identify patients who require further investigation for OSA.
  • An overnight diagnostic sleep test should be arranged if the STOP–Bang score is 3 or higher.
  • Over the perioperative period, treatment for OSA should be optimised and continue uninterrupted.
  • Ensure that patients with OSA are reviewed by their sleep physician, and that both the surgeon and anaesthetist are aware of the diagnosis.

    Picture credit: © Michelle Graham