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CHICAGO: A massive recall of Philips breathing devices in 2021 due to a risk of potential injury has left physicians scrambling to find alternatives for the growing number of people who use them.

Philips said last week it is about halfway through replacing the 5.5 million devices, which include mechanical ventilators as well as non-invasive breathing devices used to treat sleep apnea, a condition marked by brief pauses in breathing during sleep. The company recently named a new chief executive, Roy Jakobs, to lead it through the recall.

Here is a summary of the recall’s impact.

HOW COMMON IS SLEEP APNEA?

More than 30 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, but only a fraction are being treated, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a sleep expert at the University of Southern California. One major risk factor is obesity, and as obesity rates have climbed worldwide so have the number of people who need continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which pump air through a face mask and hose to ensure normal breathing.

The global market for treatments last year was $8 billion and is expected to top $13 billion in 2028, according to market research firm Fortune Business Insights.

In many sleep apnea patients, muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, blocking the airway and causing a brief pause in breathing. As blood oxygen drops, the stress hormone adrenaline causes people to rouse and gasp for air.

For some, this happens hundreds of times a night, said Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, a sleep medicine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Sleep Center in Philadelphia.

Recurrent drops in oxygen can cause high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, heart attacks and heart failure, as well as depression, memory loss and trouble concentrating.

Sleep deprivation is also a risk.

“We worry about motor vehicle accidents, we worry about work-related injuries because of the excessive sleepiness,” Dasgupta said.

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