Sunday, February 17, 2008

Didgeridoo playing could improve sleep apnea

Offhand, I can't think of any connection between the didgeridoo and the practice of radiology.

I don't care.

This clinical trial by Puhan et al was conducted in Switzerland, far from this ancient instrument's origin in Australia. Somehow the authors were able to convince 25 Swiss patients with sleep apnea to play the didgeridoo. Fourteen of these 25 played the instrument for 4 months, while the 11 controls were placed on a waiting list. The bottom line:
Regular playing of a didgeridoo reduces daytime sleepiness and snoring in people with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and also improves the sleep quality of partners

Severity of disease, expressed by the apnoea-hypopnoea index, is also substantially reduced after four months of didgeridoo playing
As a radiologist, I spend most of my work days up to my clavicles in high-tech equipment. I therefore relish all the more avocations, such as folk music and hiking, that I can enjoy with low tech gear far from the power grid. Therefore, it's a pleasing thought that a $94 plastic didgeridoo might replace a $1500 CPAP machine in some patients.

On another note, perhaps Switzerland is not such an unlikely place for this particular clinical trial at all. If anything, people who have already been playing alphorns for the past 1,800 years should be naturals at the didgeridoo.

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