Clinical diagnosis of sleep apnea based on single night of polysomnography vs. two nights of polysomnography
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The purpose of this study was to investigate apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) across two polysomnographies (PSGs) to examine AHI variability and impact on clinical diagnosis.
Materials and methods
Two-night PSGs of 193 sleep clinic patients were reviewed, and the AHI variability was analyzed. Anonymized records from five patients with significant night-to-night AHI variability were used in this study: the two-night PSGs from two patients were represented as four individual PSGs; the two-night PSG for two others were represented as being obtained from two different sleep clinics; the last patient’s PSG was shown as a two-night study. Twenty-two sleep experts attending the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting were recruited to make diagnoses based on the PSGs. They were told that the PSGs were from seven patients: four with single-night PSG; two with two PSGs, each one from a different clinic; and one patient with a two-night PSG.
Twenty-one percent of the 193 sleep clinic patients had a nightly PSG AHI variability of greater than 5. Forty-eight percent of all patients had a significantly higher AHI on the first night, and 41% had a significantly higher AHI on the second night. Using an AHI > 15 diagnostic criteria, sleep apnea would have been undetected in 20% (n = 39) of patients due to low AHI on one night. Furthermore, 13% of all patients had a more severe sleep apnea classification based on the second night of PSG. For the seven cases, 27–36% of sleep experts failed to identify sleep apnea especially when presented with the PSG containing the lower AHI. Incidences of missed sleep apnea diagnoses were reduced to 15–18% when information from two PSGs was presented to the sleep experts.
Utilizing a large patient population, this study supports the significant night-to-night variability in PSG respiratory variables. Identification of sleep apnea in some patients is reduced when sleep experts are provided with only one PSG recording. The clinical implication is that about 13% of sleep clinic patients might benefit from a second night of PSG.