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Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

The nature and severity of sleep apnea is usually categorized based on a number of factors. These include the respiratory disturbance Index (RDI), the frequency of apneas and hypopnea events (AHI index) and the number of respiratory effort-related arousals (RERA) per hour of sleep.

Determining the nature and severity of an OSA condition requires an overnight sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram (PSG). These studies are usually conducted at hospital or sleep lab, but home testing options have also been developed in recent years. Most sleep medicine professionals still consider a sleep lab study to be the “gold standard” for care, because the results can not only identify sleep apnea events, but also report blood oxygen levels, heart rates and rhythms, restless leg syndrome, parasomnia (restless sleep) and can detect for rarer central or mixed-apnea conditions.

Sleep studies can be conducted over one or two nights. If apnea is detected during an all-night PSG test, a second study will be scheduled to perform what is known as a titration test. This involves wearing a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, which is attached to monitoring equipment that allows the technicians to adjust the mask’s air pressure until they find the appropriate level needed to reduce or eliminate apnea events. When done in one night, a study will begin with the PSG. If apnea is detected, the second half of the night will be devoted to the titration test.

A home sleep test involves the use of a portable monitoring system that is made available to the patient, who can then conduct the overnight evaluation in their own bed. The testing devices used are effective for detecting OSA, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate, snoring and breathing effort, but will not report other brain waves, sleep time and other related sleep disorders.

If you are experiencing symptoms of OSA, Dr. Spink can make arrangements for a referral to a sleep medicine physician who may decide a sleep lab study is needed. Due to the known health risks of OSA, sleep studies and treatment therapies are covered by many private insurance providers and may qualify for Medicare benefits.

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