In a study of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older who were asked about sleep disturbances, 56% were estimated to be at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea, but only 8% of the high-risk individuals had been tested for it. Of those tested, 94% were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society findings indicate that, in older Americans, increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea is common but it is seldom investigated. When investigated, it is usually confirmed and treated, however. In the study, treatment with positive airway pressure was prescribed for 82% of participants after they were diagnosed.
"This study examined the national scope of obstructive sleep apnea risk in older Americans and shed light on national evaluation and treatment patterns. We were surprised to see that among those older Americans at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, very few received evaluations with overnight sleep studies," said lead author Tiffany Braley, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
Co-lead author Galit Dunietz, PhD, MPH (also from the University of Michigan) stated that if these data reflect national evaluation patterns, millions of older individuals who are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea could be missing an opportunity to identify a consequential and treatable health condition.