My G.P. gave me a home study for sleep apnea and the diagnosis was severe apnea. However, I am not sure I completed the study correctly. How accurate are home studies for sleep apnea? Do I need to be reevaluated in a sleep center before I seek treatment?
Doctors Answers (4)
Home sleep screens are not as accurate as an in-lab sleep study. In-lab studies are the gold standard for sleep disorder testing.
Accurate for obstructive sleep apnea.
Home sleep studies are fairly accurate for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. We generally recommend that this be followed by a sleep study in a sleep lab attended by a sleep technologist. This attended study is to measure how much air pressure is necessary to keep the airway open and prevent the apnea from happening. This is called a titration study as the technologist "titrates" the amount of pressure needed using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) unit. Going from a home sleep study to CPAP therapy is not the best route as you may need a different form of treatment such as a bi-level PAP machine which can only be determined during an attended study. Sleep studies done in the sleep lab measure more than a home study. This would include assessing the various stages of sleep, recording the arousals of brain activity and determining if the sleep is fragmented, monitoring leg movements, and sometimes seeing seizure activity on the electroencephalogram, and it allows the option to video any unusual movement during sleep. Of course, if the electrodes become loose, only if there is an attendant, can they be reapplied. So, if all you are wanting to know is if someone does or does not have sleep apnea, then a home test may be just fine. But, if you are addressing other sleep disorders such as limb movements, narcolepsy, non-restorative sleep, seizures, sleep walking, etc. it is best to order a diagnostic sleep study in a sleep lab.
Technological advancements in recent years have made home sleep testing for sleep apnea commonplace. The tests are accurate and approved for payment by Medicare and most managed care companies. Borderline results on a home sleep test might require confirmation with in laboratory testing. However, severe sleep apnea identified on a home sleep test does not require in lab confirmation. The next step is to discuss treatment with your sleep doctor and primary care physician.