The Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates of Baltimore (PCCAB) are thrilled to welcome world-renowned sleep medicine physician Dr. Alan Schwartz to our Towson practice.
A key figure in the field for more than 30 years, Dr. Schwartz’s impressive resume encompasses patient treatment, research, teaching and product development. He has served as Director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Interdisciplinary Sleep Research and Director of the Johns Hopkins Clinical Sleep Fellowship Training Program. Dr. Schwartz has authored more than 150 articles and is listed as inventor on three patents.
Below, Dr. Schwartz offers insights on innovative treatment technologies that are broadening opportunities for positive patient outcomes, and shares his approach on using these technologies wisely.
What kind of innovative approaches have you developed?
One is neurostimulation treatments for sleep apnea. It’s the idea of using implantable pacemakers (like those commonly used for the heart) for the hypoglossal nerve which controls the position of the tongue. Pacing that nerve can help open the throat and treat obstructive sleep apnea. Another is a phrenic nerve pacemaker that stimulates the diaphragm to breathe. It can be helpful for patients with central sleep apnea and Cheyne Stokes respiration. We are at the dawn of the age where these pacemakers are becoming commercially available to patients.
How do these new approaches affect patient outcomes?
They offer treatment alternatives for a whole spectrum of patients with sleep apnea who either can’t use—or don’t like—CPAP. Even though two patients may both have obstructive sleep apnea, one may be amenable to certain types of treatments and the other may not. Having a broad spectrum of effective treatments enables you to address these differences and bring more options to patients.
How do you know what approach is best for each patient?
You have to use your understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the disorder, and the key is to really talk to patients and understand their unique situation and the unique features of their disorder. We have spent the last decade defining the patients who are most likely to benefit from various treatment options. That allows us to have meaningful conversations with patients about which options are best suited for them, and why they might choose one over another.
Are innovative approaches always the answer?
It’s my strong belief that the full value of technology advancements is only realized when they are married to patient needs. Technology is not an end unto itself; it should be deployed only when it positively impacts our patients’ lives.
You’ve said sleep is “an untapped window of opportunity” to improve health. Explain.
Sleep impacts a wide variety of patient-centered health outcomes, including blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, lung diseases and cardiovascular risk. All of these medical problems can, in some measure, be helped by addressing the issues that occur during sleep. There’s a unique opportunity to leverage treatments designed to help your sleep and make positive impacts on other areas of your health. As compared with typical treatments administered during the daytime, sleep is an untapped therapeutic window that gives healthcare professionals an added venue to provide meaningful treatment.
Learn more about Dr. Schwartz, or schedule an appointment by calling 410-494-1662.