Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Moderate" does not mean "Mild"

I was in clinic most of the day. I told 2 of the patients that their sleep studies showed "moderate sleep apnea". Both of them looked relieved and said almost exactly the same thing, "so it's not that serious?" This necessitated additional time to explain that moderate obstructive sleep apnea is indeed a significant condition that usually affects daytime functioning as well as cardiovascular health.

I'm not sure why this confusion occurred. Maybe "moderate" means something different to lay people than physicians.

I guess I should change my classification, when speaking with patients, to "mild obstructive sleep apnea", "obstructive sleep apnea," and "severe obstructive sleep apnea" to promote clarity.


j7uy5 said...

You see exactly the same thing with major depression. There are three levels: mild, moderate, and severe.

Sure, everyone has been depressed, but even the mild version is worse than what most people would imagine.

Michael Rack, MD said...


interesting comparison.

D said...

It may be better to assign a number to those instead. The same problem exists with our "national terror alert system". People don't correctly relate words and colors, but numbers seem to do the trick. I think a 10 scale would do it.
1 being healthy sleeper, 10 being, you'll be lucky to last 2yrs without action.