BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new computer screening tool developed and
patented by a University at Buffalo physician is helping to detect
severe obstructive sleep apnea in cardiovascular patients who have
not yet been diagnosed with this common and potentially dangerous
The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is
being conducted by a UB researcher at the Veterans Affairs Western
New York Healthcare System.
The goal is to evaluate how well the computer screening tool
developed at UB diagnoses sleep apnea in patients with heart
disease, compared to an overnight sleep study, or polysomnography,
considered the 'gold standard' for diagnosing sleep apnea.
"The importance of this grant is that it may give us a faster
way to screen for sleep apnea in patients who are already at high
risk but who are undiagnosed," says Ali A. El Solh, MD, UB
professor of medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences and professor of social and preventive medicine in the
School of Public Health and Health Professions, who is principal
It is estimated that between 30 percent and 50 percent of
cardiovascular patients also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea,
many of whom are undiagnosed.
Obstructive sleep apnea prevents sufficient air from getting
into the lungs during sleep, causing oxygen levels in the blood to
drop. Because it causes numerous interruptions in their sleep,
people with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes,
work-related accidents and other medical problems, including
complications after surgery. Since sleep apnea episodes can also
trigger cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, atrial
fibrillation and stroke, patients with heart disease who also
suffer from sleep apnea are at even higher risk.
"Previous data have shown that patients with heart disease have
a high occurrence of sleep apnea and it often goes undiagnosed,"
says El Solh. "It makes sense for us to try and screen them for
sleep apnea as early as possible so that if they are diagnosed with
sleep apnea, we can start treating them before they suffer another
The computer screening tool developed by El Solh and Brydon J.
Grant, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, diagnoses sleep apnea
based on a patient's answers to questions concerning
anthropomorphic and clinical characteristics such as body mass
index, neck size and the presence of hypertension.
If the neural network-based screening tool proves to be as
accurate as polysomnography, then El Solh says that it may provide
clinicians with a much faster, more accessible way to identify
sleep apnea, especially in high-risk patients.
The study will end in December and data analysis should be
complete early next year.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.