Sleep apnea unrecognized in 87% of at-risk hospital patients

Despite its association with cardiovascular disease and mortality, obstructive sleep apnea goes unrecognized in 87 percent of at-risk hospitalized patients, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

"The results showed that our screening process identified sleep disordered breathing in 87 percent of patients who followed up with a polysomnography," Sunil Sharma, MD, first author of the study and associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said in a statement. "We confirmed the high prevalence of undetected sleep disordered breathing among hospitalized patients and also validated a low-cost protocol to detect it."

Patients admitted to the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in the cardiology, internal medicine or family medicine departments with a body mass index over 30 were automatically screened with a sleep apnea questionnaire. If they screened positive, they received formal sleep consultation and underwent an overnight oxygen desaturation index test.

Of patients with high ODI who followed up with a recommended polysomnography, 87 percent were diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing.

"Sleep disordered breathing is associated with cardiovascular complications and sudden death," Dr. Sharma said. "This study should be of great interest to hospitals looking at ways to reduce complications. Recent data suggests that for inpatients with cardiovascular disorders, early diagnosis and intervention for sleep apnea may lead to reduced readmission rates."

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