Wearable device may enable screening for sleep apnea at home

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A New Jersey hospital is testing a device to screen patients with cardiovascular disease or atrial fibrillation for obstructive sleep apnea while they are in their homes.

The new wearable device is WatchPAT, which tracks a patient’s heart rate, blood oxygen levels, air flow and breathing patterns as the patient sleeps.

“Sleep apnea is very common in patients with atrial fibrillation, yet it is not uniformly diagnosed in part because it can be a major inconvenience and challenge for patients to stay overnight in a sleep lab at a medical facility,” says David Landers, MD, vice chair at the Heart and Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Sleep apnea is directly associated with cardiac disease,” Landers notes. “Getting treatment for this condition is key.”

While 22 million adults have sleep apnea, 80 percent of cases are undiagnosed, says John Villa, DO, medical director at the Institute for Sleep/Wake Disorders within the hospital.

Consequently, high-risk patients are being given WatchPAT to conduct a sleep test at home. Study data is collected and sent to a secure server called CloudPAT. When the test is complete, a report is generated immediately, along with pertinent algorithms and sent to the prescribing physician.

Patients in the pilot have been diagnosed with sleep apnea ranging from mild to severe conditions, says Pilar Ortiz, an advanced practice nurse in the department of sleep medicine.

“Educating our patients and families about sleep apnea is crucial,” Ortiz explains. “Now that sleep apnea can be more easily detected through a device patients can wear at home, we can more easily identify those most at risk.”

Treating sleep apnea also helps the management of other medical conditions, including metabolic or cardiac issues, Ortiz adds.

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