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Sleep Disorders

Sleep Apnea Test Result

10/27/2009

Question:

My results are confusing....I have 56.8 events per hour, 56 hypoapnea, 15 episodes, 235 obstructive apneas, 391 arrousals and my oxygen dropped to 80%...is this a serious sleep apnea

Answer:

The short answer to your question is yes, this is severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The categories of severity of OSA are usually defined by the number of respiratory events (apneas + hypopneas) per hour of sleep. The definitions generally followed are:

An apnea is defined as a lack of airflow (breathing) for at least 10 seconds while a hypopnea is defined as a decrease in airflow that is associated with a drop in the oxygen saturation and/or an arousal (brief awakening) from sleep. We really treat these respiratory events the same.

Sometimes, we factor in degree of oxygen desaturation (how low the oxygen level goes) into the severity of the OSA.

So by the above definitions, you would be considered to have severe OSA associated with low oxygen levels during sleep. This is serious as the consequences of this condition are significant and range from a poor quality of life (morning headaches, disabling sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, etc) to increasing problems with blood pressure control, heart disease and strokes. Symptoms may include waking up choking or gasping at night, very loud snoring (as you describe), poor and unrefreshing sleep, morning headaches and daytime sleepiness (again, as you describe). The risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity and craniofacial abnormalities.

The primary treatment for OSA is the use of CPAP, which is very effective at keeping the airway open during sleep. It does this by “pressurizing” the airway to prevent it from collapsing. In a large number of well-done studies, CPAP therapy has been shown to be very effective at improving a number of measures of quality of life, including daytime alertness, improved concentration and improved mood. Individuals with OSA who can successfully use CPAP generally feel better! In addition, growing data suggest that CPAP may reduce some of the medical consequences associated with sleep apnea.

Alternative treatments for OSA really fall into 2 main categories: oral appliances and surgery. These therapies are limited to specific cases and someone with severe OSA, such as yourself, is less likely to be candidate for either of these types of therapy.

I would definitely follow-up with your doctor about this study. Sleep apnea as you describe should definitely be treated, not just to reduce your long term health risks, but hopefully to help you sleep and feel better. You schedule an appointment with a Sleep Specialist to discuss you’re the next steps in your evaluation and management.

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Response by:

James   Knepler, MD James Knepler, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati