A new study may have uncovered a much cheaper and less intrusive way to diagnose sleep apnea.
The traditional method for diagnosis is for the patient to stay overnight in a sleep lab. Not only can the time away from home be problematic for many, but the cost adds up to more than $1,000. That can be an issue for the uninsured and underinsured.
The new method, which is significantly cheaper, involves an electronic nose. A new study in the European Respiratory Journal, could make the diagnosis of the condition quick and inexpensive compared to current methods.
Researchers analyzed the breath of 40 sleep apnea patients and 20 healthy controls. Sleep apnea is associated with inflammation in the upper airways, which the researchers suggested could be detected by analysis of the exhaled breath of the patients. The study also aimed to assess whether the electronic nose could detect the effects of the standard treatment for sleep apnea i.e. continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
The researchers performed questionnaires and sleep examinations to confirm sleep apnea in 40 patients. They also collected throat washings from patients to measure any improvement in their condition following treatment with CPAP. The researchers then used a statistical analysis model to calculate the accuracy of the electronic nose.
The results found that the electronic nose could effectively diagnose sleep apnea. The statistical analysis showed that sleep apnea was detected with a sensitivity of 93%.