Research recently presented at the annual conference of the American Thoracic Society shows that sleep apnea is worryingly common in patients undergoing a procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). Perhaps just as concerning, the research showed that two of the most common screening tools used for identifying patients at risk for sleep apnea–the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Berlin Questionnaire–weren’t useful for flagging these patients.

A Multicenter Study

Mature man sleeping in his bedThe research, which was presented on May 18, was conducted by researchers at many different centers, mostly located in Asia (China, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Brazil). It looked at about 1300 patients who were undergoing the PCI procedure.

PCI is often called simply “angioplasty.” It’s a procedure used to widen arteries that have been narrowed, often by cholesterol-laden plaques, which can be related to scarring of the arteries by the vibrations from snoring.

For this study, all patients were given three tests to determine their level of sleep apnea: an overnight sleep test, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and the Berlin Questionnaire. According to the sleep test, nearly half of patients (45%) had sleep apnea, and nearly a quarter (22%) had severe sleep apnea.

The study also showed that the two questionnaires were not helpful in identifying patients with sleep apnea. Only one-quarter of the patients with sleep apnea experienced daytime sleepiness as measured by the Epworth sleepiness scale. And only half of the sleep apnea sufferers fell into the high risk category according to the Berlin Questionnaire.

There’s Only One Way to Diagnose Sleep Apnea

This study reaffirms the strong connection between sleep apnea and heart disease, although it’s important to remember that this is a paper that was just presented at a conference, not one that’s survived the rigors of peer review.

The study also reminds us that there’s only one really good way to determine whether you have sleep apnea and to what degree: a sleep test that is reviewed by a sleep doctor. There are many risks and warning signs we can point to, but until we’ve got a positive diagnosis, we can’t recommend a sleep apnea treatment.

If you suspect sleep apnea and want to learn more about diagnosis and treatment, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.