Down the hall at a hospitalWe know that sleep apnea can have major consequences for hospital patients. It can lead to slow or poor healing. Heart patients with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to return for repeated heart failures. And there’s an increased risk of anesthesia complications.

The problem is that although sleep apnea is common many people with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Now a hospital has developed an economical screening program that allowed them to screen all their patients for sleep apnea. As a bonus, it increased awareness of the condition among doctors, leading to more referrals to sleep doctors.

A Logical, Inexpensive Approach

A multidisciplinary team at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals created an approach to identifying sleep apnea, what they call a clinical pathway, to screen patients for sleep apnea. Basically, all patients in cardiology, internal medicine, and family medicine were screened automatically if they had a body mass index over 30, which is clinical obesity–a known risk factor for sleep apnea. The first step in screening was using the STOP questionnaire, which asks if patients have:

  • Snoring
  • Tiredness during the day
  • Observed apnea (someone witnessed them stop breathing)
  • Pressure: elevated blood pressure

If the STOP questionnaire showed an elevated sleep apnea risk, the patient was given a formal sleep consultation and their oxygen desaturation index (ODI) was measured overnight with a pulse oximeter. If the pulse oximeter showed that their oxygen levels dropped overnight, they were referred for a formal polysomnography. Nearly 87% of patients who were referred for a polysomnography were actually found to have sleep apnea.

Increased Awareness Helps, Too

In addition to the people who were referred to sleep apnea consultation because of the screening program, the authors noted an increase in requests for sleep consultation from doctors. The screening program apparently increased awareness among other doctors at the hospital, so they began referring their patients to a sleep doctor.

Now they just have to work on a screening program for nurses.

We can only hope that more hospitals begin to implement some form of screening procedure, and then follow it up with an effective sleep apnea treatment. If you would like to learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.