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U.Va.'s Sleep Disorders Center Operates at Nation's Highest Level of Excellence

Aug. 24, 2007 -- Last year, almost 1,800 adults and children in search of a good night's sleep bedded down in a state-of-the-art facility that has just earned the equivalent of a five-star rating.

The Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Virginia Health System has received a five-year accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, making it the only sleep laboratory in Central Virginia operating at the nation's highest level of excellence.

"The facility is a significant resource to the local medical community and will provide academic and scientific value in addition to the highest quality care for patients suffering from sleep disorders," said Dr. Alejandro Chediak, AASM president.

Since opening its doors 25 years ago, U.Va.'s sleep laboratory has been an oasis for thousands of bleary-eyed truck drivers, drowsy school children, snoring spouses and others whose lack of sound sleep makes daily living difficult. It frequently helps patients on the other end of the spectrum — college students and others who get too much sleep because narcolepsy and similar disorders prevent them from staying awake.

Patients travel from all areas of Virginia. Most come packed for an overnight stay; some also have their sleep patterns monitored at home by a cutting-edge wristband device.

Almost as diverse as their patients are the backgrounds of the center's medical team. Four physicians are board certified sleep doctors who specialize in pulmonology and pediatrics. Joining them are doctors from neurology, behavioral medicine and ears, nose and throat surgery. The team also includes two nurse practitioners. One works with adult patients and facilitates a support group for patients and their families; the other focuses on pediatric patients. Both nurse practitioners provide patient education and engage in community outreach activities.

Directed by Dr. Paul Suratt, an internationally known sleep researcher, the center has been a leader in studying and treating sleep apnea in children and adults. It uses a very sensitive test for detecting sleep apnea and was among the first nationwide to use an nonintrusive, continuous positive airway pressure mask that fits in nostrils rather than over the nose of apnea patients. The center also studies breathing disorders and brain problems that cause seizures during sleep.

Conducted in July, the AASM's in-depth accreditation process evaluated the center's facilities and staff and also assessed its testing procedures, patient contacts and physician training. The AASM awards its five-year accreditation to sleep centers that meet or exceed its standards for professional health care. To gain accreditation, a sleep center must also have clearly stated goals that include plans for positively affecting the quality of medical care in the community it serves.

The U.Va. Sleep Disorders Center is located at 1222 Jefferson Park Avenue in Charlottesville. For more information, call (434) 982-0406.

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