Besides packing a toothbrush and some magazines, certain patients who check into a hospital need to bring something else with them: their sleep-apnea machine.

In a new study led by a Thomas Jefferson University Hospital physician, patients at high risk for sleep apnea were substantially more likely to require a "rapid response" for an emergency or other sudden decline.

The authors of the study, published in PLOS ONE, surveyed 2,590 obese patients who were admitted to Jefferson for conditions related to internal medicine, family medicine, or cardiology.

Three-quarters of the patients were deemed at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, based on their answers to a questionnaire.

While those patients were in the hospital, 4.4 percent needed a rapid intervention to address certain acute problems, such as chest pain, a seizure, or significant change in blood pressure, heart rate, or respiratory rate.

In patients at low risk for apnea, rapid responses were needed in just 2.6 percent of admissions.

The authors further analyzed the high-risk patients based on their use of a device that maintains positive airway pressure.

Those who used these apnea devices required rapid responses in just 1.7 percent of admissions, compared with 5.3 percent of those who had the devices but did not use them religiously, and 5.6 percent of those who did not have a device at all.

In a similar vein, officials at Bryn Mawr Hospital recently cited their attention to sleep apnea as one of the reasons for the hospital's lower-than-average rate of complications following knee-replacement surgery.

Read more from the Check Up blog »