On June 14th and 15th, Professor Giuseppina Laganà from UniCamillus University was awarded a prize at the Taobuk International Book Festival for her research on obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS). She herself explains in detail what this pathological condition entails, the nature of her research, and why it was considered to be so innovative.
What is OSAS and what kind of problems can it cause?
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a pathological condition characterised by partial or complete cessation of respiratory activity during sleep. Apnoeic events occur due to the obstruction of the upper airways caused by the collapse of the oropharyngeal tissues. OSAS is a highly socially impactful condition that affects a wide range of age groups, with a higher prevalence in men.
It represents a significant health, social and economic problem, as it is recognised as one of the main causes of “excessive daytime sleepiness” and subsequent lack of concentration, sleep attacks and a decline in school performance or work productivity.
The consequences of a delayed diagnosis and the lack of treatment for this syndrome result in a direct increase in morbidity and mortality among the affected population. It also leads to increased healthcare costs for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic comorbidities, more days of work absenteeism, reduced work performance, and a higher risk of road accidents and workplace injuries.
In comparison to other therapeutic approaches, what are the innovative aspects of this research that led you to win this prize?
For many years, the contribution of orthodontists, dental specialists in Orthodontics, has been underestimated and given little consideration in clinical settings. However, this research highlights how the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), an intraoral device for mandibular advancement, can be considered an effective therapeutic approach in resolving OSAS. In particular, there are two innovative aspects regarding this research.
The first aspect involves comparing four different types of MADs. While the literature already includes comparisons between two types, comparison between multiple types of MADs is not commonly found.
The second innovative aspect is measurement of the airways after a 3D reconstruction of the entire facial structure. This allowed for extensive dimensional and volumetric evidence of the beneficial and resolving effects of using the MAD.
Did you collaborate with other colleagues on this research? When did you start?
Great achievements always involve teamwork. First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Paola Cozza, who, a few years ago, provided me with the foundation and enthusiasm for research work in general and respiratory issues in particular. Also, I want to thank Doctor Nicolò Venza for his dedication to the clinical work in the field. Additionally, I am grateful to my colleagues, the sleep neurophysiologists, who have had faith in me for a long time, overcoming the traditional scepticism towards orthodontic therapies for OSAS. These therapies are often still directed towards non-dental specialists.
Will your research have further developments? What are your next steps?
Certainly, it doesn’t end here. It will be our responsibility to increase the studied sample size and evaluate other morphological characteristics of OSAS patients to gather additional knowledge and apply it in the field of prevention. Much work still needs to be done in this regard. Prevention means avoiding disorders in the population by ensuring a full night’s rest and, therefore, a better quality of life, while reducing the economic and social impact of this condition on patients’ lives and public healthcare in general.