Do I need to go to a sleep center for pulse oximetry testing for sleep apnea?

This question was asked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 04/02/2012.
Is nocturnal pulse oximetry testing for sleep apnea something I need to see a sleep center for?

Doctors Answers (4)

Terry M. Himes, DO
Answered on: 4/11/2012

Answer: NO, however most Sleep Centers will coordinate this test for your Physician. A pulse oximetry test is typically done overnight in your home. The Test will check the percentage of oxygen in your body over an entire night. This percentage, will tell your physician whether the likely hood of apnea or another breathing disorder is present. If your oxygen drops below about 91% ( ordering Physicians call ) more than likely you should have a formal diagnostic sleep study at a convenient Accredited Sleep Center. If we can help with any additional questions or concerns please advise.

Syed Nabi, M.D.
Answered on: 4/3/2012 2

Pulse oximetry works on the concept that if someone stops breathing during their sleep, their oxygen will drop. However, it may be falsely normal or abnormal. It is usually performed at home and does not require a patient to be at the sleep lab. The results of the pulse oximetry need to be interpreted with caution. Some doctors' offices and most oxygen companies provide the service of overnight oximetry for a minimal charge.

Robert C. Jones, M.D.
Answered on: 4/3/2012 2

Accredited sleep centers do offer overnight pulse oximetry testing during the testing for sleep apnea. There are also home sleep tests that measure overnight pulse oximetry. Most sleep centers also offer overnight pulse oximetry testing through pulse oximeters that can be worn at home overnight.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 4/3/2012 2

Overnight pulse oximetry and sleep study testing are two completely different things. A pulse oximetry (or pulse ox) measures the oxygen saturation in the blood. Continuous pulse oximetry overnight may show that the oxygen content may drop to unhealthy levels but does not reveal why this occurs. This can be done at home. A sleep study measures many important parameters beside blood oxygen saturation like breathing patterns and cessation of breathing, heart rate, limb movements and brain rhythms, just to name few. This is done in a lab and attended by a sleep technologist familiar with sleep disorders.