As awareness of obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders continues to grow, more and more physicians are referring their patients for sleep studies. This is a good thing, and has led to thousands of diagnoses being made that would otherwise have been missed, but it has also created a problem. There is an enormous backlog in availability of laboratory-administered studies. Further, insurance companies are beginning to balk at paying for the tests, which can be extremely expensive. As a result, more and more facilities are turning to home sleep studies. Though traditionalists are against this trend, and point to inaccuracies and lack of complete data obtained from these at-home versions of the test, proponents are indicating that there is a place for these at home tests and that they can prove to be extremely useful.
Because the primary goal of sleep testing is to screen for obstructive sleep apnea, there are specific measurements that need to be taken. These include nasal and oral airflow and respiration. They also include sleep staging, and this requires the use of an electroencephalogram. The tests that are run in sleep labs are generally examined by either a neurologist or pulmonologist who has been specially trained to interpret the results, and who will make a diagnosis based on the data collected. Once obstructive sleep apnea is identified as being present, a second night of testing is usually done in order to determine the severity of the condition and determine the appropriate treatment. Though the testing may be more accurate, there are certain problems. Patients find the environment disruptive and the testing intimidating. They complain that they are unable to sleep in the laboratory environment. There is also the problem of a backlog of patients waiting to be seen, leading to long waits for appointments. Home testing offers a solution to both of these problems, but there are also problems. Continue reading