Snoring might annoy your family but it can also signal a serious health risk. A new high-tech tool helps doctors spot sleep apnea more easily.
Like most people, Jerry Zavada had no idea he had breathing trouble at night until his wife told him.
“She said, 'you’re snoring a lot and then all of a sudden you start gasping, you stop breathing.' and she says, 'I’m getting scared.'”
Jerry is among the more than 20 million Americans who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Dr. Mansoor Madani, and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, says, "Sleep apnea is deadly. It can kill you. It can cause you to have a heart attack or a stroke and you need to do something about it.”
Doctors usually diagnose it with a sleep study. The patient is wired up and monitored overnight as they sleep in a hospital lab but many people are reluctant to do that.
Jerry Zavada says, “It wasn’t a very pleasant experience.”
A new device makes identifying sleep apnea easier. The patient wears a wristband attached to a finger monitor overnight at home.
Zavada says, “If they can use this machine to prevent what I had to go through twice at the hospital, it would be almost like a miracle.”
The device measures oxygen in the blood and collects eight hours of sleep data on a memory card. The next day, the doctor downloads the information for instant results.
Dr. Madani says, "This is not going to substitute all of the sleep studies for everyone, but will rule out many, many patients that until now they were afraid or they didn’t like to go being wired in a lab to be studied.”
While not as comprehensive as a complete sleep study, the home test called the "watch-pat 100" is considerably cheaper. The bill for jerry’s test in the sleep lab was more than $5,000. The home study costs about $200 and some insurance plans may cover it. For more information on sleep apnea, click here.
Fast Facts:More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea.
The condition can cause daytime sleepiness, performance problems at school/work, high blood pressure and some other medical problems.
The traditional test for sleep apnea is overnight monitoring in a sleep lab. Many patients find the experience uncomfortable and are reluctant to undergo a sleep study.
Now, some physicians are using a home sleep test to screen patients for obstructive sleep apnea. The test, called watch-pat 100 system, may help doctors rule out sleep apnea and save a patient from having a traditional sleep study.
Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by brief periods of breathing cessation (of ten seconds or more at a time) during sleep. In severe cases, a patient may stop breathing 20 to 30 times an hour. There are three types. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked – usually by relaxation of the soft tissues at the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea is caused by changes in the brain signals that regulate breathing. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two problems.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million adults have sleep apnea. The condition is more common in men than in women, in those who are obese and patients with a large neck circumference, high blood pressure, abnormal narrowing of the airways or a family history of sleep apnea. In most cases, patients are unaware they have stopped breathing. However, bed partners may complain of the patient’s loud snoring, choking or gasping for air during sleep.
Sleep apnea interferes with the ability of the body to get a good night’s sleep. Patients may show signs of excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, irritability, inability to concentrate, personality changes, anxiety or depression. Lack of quality sleep can interfere with school or job performance and increase the risk of accidents. Sleep apnea has also been linked to an increased risk for development of high blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.
Testing for Sleep Apnea
The traditional method for sleep apnea testing is a sleep lab study. A patient is admitted to a special unit for overnight observation. During sleep, doctors monitor sleep state, heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen levels, eye movement and muscle activity. If sleep apnea is detected, doctors may be able to try a test of therapy (such as CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure) to keep the airways open for obstructive sleep apnea.
While laboratory sleep studies are an important tool for diagnosing sleep apnea, there are some drawbacks to the testing. First, patients are required to sleep in an unfamiliar environment while hooked up to wires and monitors and under observation of others. Many patients are uncomfortable with the process and don’t sleep well during the test. Sleep laboratories may not be readily accessible or have a waiting list.
Doctors say it’s important for patients with sleep apnea to be properly diagnosed to get treatment for the problem. But many patients are reluctant to undergo a sleep lab test. Mansoor Madani, D.M.D., Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, is now evaluating a home screening test for obstructive sleep apnea. It’s called the “Watch-PAT 100 System” (Itamar Medical Ltd.).
The Watch-PAT 100 consists of a fingertip probe and wearable wrist unit. Both devices are placed on the wrist and finger just before going to bed. During sleep, the system measures blood oxygen saturation levels, changes in blood flow and pulse rate. The signals are recorded onto a memory card. The memory card can be removed by the physician and downloaded into a computer for analysis.
Madani says the Watch-PAT 100 measures some of the same markers as those used in traditional sleep lab studies. He compared the use of the home device with traditional sleep lab studies and found the results to be similar. It is much less expensive than the use of traditional sleep lab (about $500.00 for the Watch-PAT 100 vs. $1,200.00 to $2,000.00 for the lab) and much more comfortable for the patient. Madani says the home test will not replace the need for laboratory studies. However, it may help rule out the need for a full sleep lab study for some patients. If the test results strongly suggest sleep apnea, Madani still recommends a complete sleep study.
Currently, the Watch-PAT 100 is only being used for adults. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the testing.
For information about the sleep apnea test, click here
For general information on sleep apnea:American Sleep Apnea Association Web site
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research Web site
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Web site
National Sleep Foundation Web site