Category: Sleep Apnea Alternative Tests: New Tests for Accurate Results

The most productive way to test patients for sleeping disorders like Sleep Apnea is to have them participate in a sleep study. Most Sleep Apnea patients endure sleep studies like the polysomnogram, the Multiple Sleep Latency test, or the Maintenance of Wakefulness test. Some apnea patients, however, choose to have alternative tests performed; some patients are uncomfortable during sleep studies or have other reservations about sleeping centers or sleep specialists. For these patients, many of the following tests are popular alternatives to lengthy and expensive sleep studies to test for Sleep Apnea.

ECG Sleep Apnea Test

An ECG, or Electrocardiogram, is a medical test used to read and record all of the electrical activity in the heart; an ECG is one of the many components of a polysomnogram. Like conventional Sleep Apnea tests, an ECG will take place in a medical facility and will be administered by a medical professional. The patient lies down and the test administrator will place small, sticky patches on the legs, arms, and chest of the troubled patient. These patches are called electrodes and they are attached to thin wires that connect the patient to a machine that monitors the electrical signs of the heart. The signals of activity in the heart are recorded by the electrodes and turned into lines on paper that can be interpreted by a medical professional. Sleep Apnea can often cause damage to heart of the sufferer, irregularities in their heart rate, and the effects of medications on the heart; an ECG can be used to measure all of these damages. Sleep Apnea patients are at a large risk for heart disease and the EGC can help identify those risk factors. There are no medial risks associated with an Electrocardiogram because no electricity is sent through the body.

Snore Microphone

Each form of Sleep Apnea- Obstructive, Central, and Mixed Apnea- all have separate and unique breathing patterns that accompany the sleeping disorder. Generally, the sleeping patterns of Obstructive Sleep Apnea suffers include periods of snoring. A snore microphone can be used by patients at home or in a sleep center to determine the patient’s snore sounds and determine if those sounds are related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea or not. The sounds of the sleeper are recorded by a machine that is attached to a microphone. The microphone picks up noise made by the sleeper and creates a signal. After the signal is amplified, is filtered clean of all interferences and imported by the computer component of the machine. As the computer receives the information recorded by the microphone, it is able to identify the intensity and frequency of the patient’s snoring cycle. Using a snore microphone is only intended to be an initial test for Sleep Apnea. Without more conclusive testing, it is improbable to definitively make an accurate diagnosis.

Blood Gases

Testing a patient’s blood gases is an extremely useful tool for identifying respiratory disorders like Sleep Apnea. Blood gas tests are also used to identify many other diseases that affect the functioning and health of the lungs.  A blood gases test is used to measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body’s blood; the test can also be used to identify the blood’s pH level. It can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of current or past oxygen therapies. Blood is generally collected from one of the following arteries: the brachial artery in the patient’s arm, the radial artery in the patient’s wrist, or the femoral artery in the patient’s groin. Because this test can also determine the acidity of the patient’s blood, it is also used to identify metabolic diseases like Acidosis, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Lactic Acidosis, Respiratory Acidosis, and Respiratory Alkalosis.

At-Home Diagnostic Test

Very similar to a polysomnogram performed at a sleep center, a Home Sleep Apnea Test is used to record many different signals provided by the body. A home test, however, records significantly less information about the body and is only used to test for Sleep Apnea. The main point of home tests is to record the amount of airflow, and the changes of airflow, in sleeping patients. Sensors are placed on the nose, mouth, stomach, and chest of the patient; these sensors are attached to cables that retrieve information from the body and send it to a machine that records the information. The machine also measures the levels of oxygen in the blood through a pulse oximeter placed on the finger of the sleeping patient. In most cases, a sleep technician will accompany the patient overnight and administer the home test. The morning after, the technician collects the information and equipment before returning to the sleep lab for analysis. A specialist will analyze the information and prepare a comprehensive summary of the results of your home tests. If it is determined that you suffer from Sleep Apnea, the sleep specialist will construct a plan for your treatment. The biggest downside to at-home Sleep Apnea testing is the chance of receiving an incorrect diagnosis; about 10% of patients get false-positive diagnosis for Sleep Apnea.

Disposable Sleep Apnea Screener

Another popular form of at-home Sleep Apnea testing is the Disposable Sleep Apnea Screener test. The test is used to determine the AHI of the patient, the frequency and length of apnea episodes. Disposable screeners are the simplest form of at-home tests; the testing component is a tiny, flat piece of plastic. In terms of appearance, the disposable screener can be compared to a large, cartoon mustache. The plastic is sticky on the backside and is to be placed above the lip, between the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip. There are sensors on the tiny piece of plastic that are able to detect breathing patterns in the sleeping patient. There is a tiny computer chip that is in the core of the device. The tiny chip is able to identify patterns during waking hours, sleeping hours, and episodes of apnea throughout the night. Information gathered throughout the day is compared to the information received during night hours to determine an AHI number. Usually, a Disposable Sleep Apnea Screener is available for a relatively low price. Like other alternative Sleep Apnea tests, disposable screeners are not meant to be a concrete means of diagnosing Sleep Apnea; more thorough tests should follow.

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