Surgical patient

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is when a person experiences repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, OSA is a common condition that affects over one in four Canadians (26%). Here we share a story about why identifying patients who may have OSA prior to surgery is important and update you on new clinical guidelines developed by Fraser Health.

In general, appreciation of the perioperative risks that patients with OSA face is increasing. In Fraser Health, a sentinel event of a perioperative death put the dangers of OSA on the radar of the Department of Anaesthesiology and surgical nursing staff. The interdisciplinary review identified the need for greater staff awareness of OSA, and guidelines to help staff identify and mitigate risk for patients undergoing surgery.

In 2013, an interdisciplinary team came together as a Steering Committee and began researching and consulting with other surgical programs in North America to come up with the first draft of guidelines for adult patients in Fraser Health surgical sites.

“It’s important to consider OSA as part of a surgical patient’s care plan. We need to look at the individual’s needs, such as the kind of surgery they’re having, the anaesthetic and pain medication required, so we can mitigate the risk before, during and after their surgery.  It was an iterative process – we received a lot of valuable feedback from experts in the field as we rolled out the guidelines to our surgical sites,” said the Project Coordinator, Sandra Broad.

Now, after months of collaboration, recent audits demonstrated 98% of patients are consistently screened for OSA prior to surgery at all applicable Fraser Health facilities.

The OSA Care Team, Surgical Program, achieved an “Above and Beyond” award for their collaborative leadership in developing clinical practice guidelines for patients with OSA.

BC PSLS Central Office would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their contribution to Fraser Health’s Obstructive Sleep Apnea patient safety initiative:

Sarah Derman, Dr. Dean Jones, Peggy Klassen, Sean Hardiman, Lorraine Prysunka, Dr. John Ramsden and Dr. Curt Smecher.

Sandra Broad is the Project Coordinator for the Obstructive Sleep Apnea initiative at Fraser Health. She has a background in nursing and extensive experience with program development, evaluation and quality improvement projects.

To learn more about Fraser Health’s OSA initiative, please email Sandra at

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