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Israeli Researchers Develop New OSA Screening Tool

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Researchers in Israel have developed a new screening tool that combines pulse oximetry with an AI app to provide medical professionals with a low-cost method for identifying patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The researchers used pulse oximetry, neck circumference, and demographic data from patients to train an AI to identify OSA.  The resulting Oxydosa App allows practitioners to choose a screening standard and enter patient data to compute a patient’s OSA risk.   In a study of 887 individuals, the app outperformed both the STOP-BANG and the NoSaS screening tools and did not miss any individuals with severe sleep apnea.  

The tool does require overnight monitoring of pulse oximetry data. However, this monitoring can be performed at home and is much less expensive than a full sleep study.

In a healthy patient, pulse oximetry readings are stable throughout the night, because the body always receives enough oxygen.  In a patient who suffers from OSA, the readings display a shark-tooth pattern, as the patient loses oxygen saturation, experiences a microarousal as they gasp for breath, and then loses oxygen saturation again.

Currently, pulse oximeters that can record data throughout the night cost less than $100.  Meanwhile, a full sleep study can cost an uninsured patient thousands of dollars. Many Americans forgo necessary sleep apnea treatment because of the high cost of diagnosis.  However, if they had data indicating that they did, in fact, have OSA, they might be more likely to book a sleep study to receive a diagnosis and have access to appropriate treatments.

Also, since many patients have purchased pulse oximeters in the wake of Covid-19, or already have smartwatches that can record their nighttime oxygen saturation, patients can screen at home before their appointment so that their care-providers can give them an immediate assessment of their sleep apnea risk and start discussing medical interventions.   Getting more patients treatment earlier in the course of the disease could reduce complications from sleep apnea like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and dementia.

If further studies replicate Oxydosa’s success, it could make it much easier for GPs and dentists to connect uninsured and underinsured patients with needed sleep apnea treatments.