Dr Colin Sullivan
Colin Sullivan AO, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Sydney, is a leading international academic, clinician, and researcher in his field of sleep and breathing disorders. Early work with Professor Eliot Philipson in Toronto (1976-78) identified the critical role of arousal and key physiological changes underpinning the control of breathing in sleep. His invention of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) system in 1980 revolutionized the study, understanding and treatment of sleep apnea, and he pioneered the use of CPAP and non-invasive ventilatory support (NIV) to manage and reverse sleep-induced respiratory failure in various causes of pulmonary disease. He continues to work on a wide range of projects on sleep disordered breathing including the development of methods of non-invasive ambulatory diagnosis and therapy.
Sleep and Breathing: A 50 Year Odyssey
My interest in sleep apnea began with the death of my mother in 1968. Heavy snoring led to her sleeping alone. Her undoubted, but then unknown, sleep apnea, coupled with myxoedema and ischemic heart disease, resulted in the 5 am cessation of the loud snoring; a silence that woke me from sleep in an adjacent room, to find her dead. Sleep apnea was unknown in my medical school studies. During physician training in 1973, the classical paper of Guilleminault, Eldridge and Dement on insomnia and sleep apnea (Science), began to answer the question that had stayed in my mind. What happened and what could I have done to prevent the death that night? This was the beginning of my career in clinical research. The parallel problem of fatal apnea during sleep in an infant led to the exploration of breathing in sleep, and recognition of the importance of arousal responses in animal models. Thereafter, I began studies in human volunteers, a clinical program searching for adults with sleep apnea, and then the experiments with nasally applied positive pressure 1980. My presentation will provide a brief history of the remarkable advances through the decades with an update of the most recent studies on the long-term outcomes in sleep apnea and the benefits of effective therapy.