DGH Opens Sleep Center

Shore Health System’s Regional Sleep Disorders Center recently opened a branch at Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge. This new Sleep Center expands the services Shore Health System has been performing at The Memorial Hospital in Easton since 1993.

In 2007, Shore Health System responded to the changing technology in the field of sleep and neurodiagnostic testing by investing in state of the art sleep study monitoring and reporting technology for the Sleep Center at Memorial Hospital. “New digital imaging and more sophisticated testing devices now being used at both hospital sleep centers enhance the diagnostic capabilities of the sleep studies we conduct,” says Gary Jones, director of cardiovascular and pulmonary services for Shore Health System. “With this new system in place, we were able to expand services to Dorchester General Hospital, making sleep studies more convenient for many of the people referred for this elective procedure.”

The Shore Health System Regional Sleep Disorders Center program is designed to diagnose and recommend treatment for disorders that disrupt restful sleep. The Sleep Centers at Memorial Hospital and Dorchester General Hospital are both accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The Regional Sleep Disorders Center is staffed by medical director Peter Whitesell, MD, along with a panel of board certified physicians and five registered polysomnographic technologists, who are trained to conduct, evaluate and interpret sleep studies.

Before a sleep study is scheduled, individuals meet with Dr. Whitesell, who conducts a physical exam and discusses other steps already taken to address symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring, day time sleepiness and insomnia. “With this information available to us, we can design a sleep study that will give patients and their physicians the information they need to develop a treatment plan,” says Dr. Whitesell.

“For a sleep study, we recreate the same sleep experience a person has at home, except that it will be observed and measured,” says Rich Wales, manager of cardiovascular and pulmonary services for Shore Health System. “The Sleep Center environments at our two hospitals are set up like a comfortable hotel room so that people can relax enough to get a good night’s sleep.”

Most sleep studies begin on a week night between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. A technologist connects the patient to sensors that monitor physical activity, such as brain waves, heart rate, breathing and air flow. Once the monitoring device is in place, the person is free to watch TV or videos, read or have a snack before going to sleep. The study ends between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. the following morning.

Dr. Whitesell reviews the sleep study results and includes his interpretation in a report sent to the patient’s primary care physician. Test results are stored electronically for easy retrieval and comparison with subsequent sleep studies, as necessary. Physicians can access sleep study results from either Sleep Center through a secure Internet connection.

Following a sleep study, individuals receive a management plan that includes treatment recommendations. The full medical resources of Shore Health System are available for referrals, including otolaryngology, various surgical interventions, pulmonary medicine and neurology as well as psychological and behavioral health services.

Dr. Whitesell, MD, says, “We can customize treatment for sleep disorders based on what people are most like to comply with. Because we are often looking at a lifetime treatment, compliance is critical in getting the proper results.”

Among the medical management treatments available for sleep disorders are weight control; positional training; oral/dental appliances; ear, nose and throat procedures; and oral surgery. The most common corrective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea comes from devices known as CPAP and BIPAP machines. These devices deliver positive airway pressure to keep an individual’s airways open while sleeping.

Dr. Whitesell says, “Over the years, airway pressure devices have become more
patient-friendly and effective. The machines are very quiet, lightweight and portable. Masks used with these devices have become more unobtrusive and comfortable.”

Dr. Whitesell adds, “The results of these treatments can be life altering. It can be very gratifying to hear what a difference it has made to the quality of life and health of our patients when they return for follow-up visits.”

For more information about Shore Health System’s Regional Sleep Disorders Center, call Memorial Hospital at 410-822-1000, ext. 5338 or Dorchester General Hospital at 410-228-5511, ext. 2181. Also visit www.shorehealth.org/services/sleep.