Many older adults have a high risk for obstructive sleep apnea; however, evaluations for the condition are seldom performed, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Although older age is a recognized risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), estimates regarding OSA risk and discrepancies in OSA recognition and treatment are primarily based on regional data from middle-aged adults,” Tiffany J. Braley, MD, MS, from the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues wrote. “Little is known about the national scope of OSA risk under-recognition, and undertreatment in older adults.”
Braley and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study to determine the proportion of older Americans at risk for OSA who receive evaluations, diagnosis and treatment for the condition. The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study survey, which asked 1,052 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older about sleep disturbances. Questions from the survey were similar to the validated STOP-Bang questionnaire.
More than half of participants (56%) had a high risk for OSA, but only 8% were evaluated for the condition. Most participants who were tested (94%) were diagnosed with OSA. Of those who had confirmed OSA, 82% were treated with positive airway pressure.
“This study examined the national scope of obstructive sleep apnea risk in older Americans and shed light on national evaluation and treatment patterns,” Braley said in a press release. “We were surprised to see that among those older Americans at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, very few received evaluations with overnight sleep studies.”
These results indicate a missed opportunity for identifying millions of older adults with the treatable condition, according to the researchers. – by Alaina Tedesco
Braley reports receiving funding from the American Sleep Medicine Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She also reports receiving material support from Biogen-Idec and is named in a provisional patent held by the University of Michigan. Please see study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.