by Shiri Shneorson
VP & general manager, digital health business unit, Itamar Medical
Until quite recently, anyone aiming to track their sleep outside a laboratory setting lacked access to any technology more sophisticated than a pen and notebook.
Now, amid a plethora of mobile apps, wearable devices, and sensors, we’ve seemingly entered a new era of greater precision and sophistication in tracking our sleep. These advances come at a time when they’re sorely needed: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of Americans sleep less than the recommended seven or more hours per day, putting them at risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, mental illness, and other conditions.
But while more people are turning to sleep-tracking devices in a bid to improve their overall wellbeing, these devices come with major technological and medical limitations. While they may do a decent job measuring the timing and duration of our sleep, they still come up short when it comes to tracking the quality of our sleep, let alone serving as diagnostic tools.
What are these devices’ shortfalls – and how, despite those flaws, can we harness these tools to live healthier, better rested lives?
The current sleep tracking trend dates back nearly a decade. Fitness trackers like Jawbone and Fitbit and apps like Beddit – later acquired by Apple – have enabled users to monitor their nightly sleep habits albeit without delving into sleep quality or sleep cycles.
While existing sleep tracking apps have been able to provide some basic insights into the stages of sleep (light vs. deep), their overall effect has been to provide users a big-picture overview of how much they’re sleeping each night. That information is far from useless, of course, as for many users, this data alone can help them adjust their day- and night-time routines to promote healthier sleep habits.
But to understand the uses and limitations of these devices, it’s helpful to think about how they actually work. The technology used to measure sleep – like wrist-worn accelerometers, which monitor users’ movement throughout the night (with long periods of immobility characterised as sleep), movement-tracking bed sensors, or sleep-tracking headbands equipped with brain wave-reading electrodes – relies on a mixture of mobility and biomarker data like heart rate and respiration to evaluate users’ shut-eye.
There are plenty of pitfalls to these methods: Restless sleepers who toss and turn, for instance, can easily confound motion-based monitors, tricking these devices into thinking they’re awake. Chronic insomniacs who remain motionless in bed for hours on end may be recorded as sleeping, despite being wide awake. Meanwhile, sleep technology experts say that movement and heart rate sensors fail to accurately measure sleep in the REM stage. While some products, including from Garmin and Fitbit, provide data on users’ sleep stages, they lack respiratory indices and the ability to diagnose conditions like sleep apnoea.
Indeed, sleep trackers generally fall significantly short in terms of diagnosing sleep conditions. In the diagnostic realm, polysomnography – not the most popular apps and devices – is the gold standard.
Evaluating the overall merit of different sleep trackers is even more difficult given that most commercial products operate on undisclosed blackbox algorithms that determine what is and is not sleep. Sleep labs’ algorithms, on the other hand, are publicly shared, making it possible for independent experts to evaluate them.
For all their shortcomings, sleep tracking devices can still fulfil important functions. Rather than seeing the data generated by apps and wearables as the final word on all things sleep, users can treat it as supplementary information to help guide smarter decisions about when, where, and how they sleep. Users may find, for example, that they tend to sleep longer when they go to bed and wake up between certain times, or that they sleep better after an evening workout session. It’s also important to track variables like room temperature and diet, both of which can have a big impact on one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Devices with snore-tracking features, while not to be treated as diagnostic tools, can help users determine whether they’re at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea; if so, they should seek further examine from their doctors. Indeed, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, while noting that consumer products “are not substitutes for medical evaluation,” endorses consumer sleep technologies as tools that can “enhance the patient-clinician interaction when presented in the context of an appropriate clinical evaluation.” In arming patients with preliminary data, these tools can also promote a sense of empowerment, which is vital for individuals looking to take charge of their own wellbeing.
Are sleep trackers sleeker and more innovative than the sleep journals of yore? Undoubtedly. Are they medical-grade diagnostic tools with flawless data capabilities? No – but to the extent that they make us more aware of sleep’s importance to our health, they can enable us all to live and sleep better.
Also Published at Med-Tec News
The incidence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) is estimated to be 25% in the adult population. That’s one-quarter of adults who are at risk for the consequences of the disorder, including fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. And, although CPAP, the most common treatment for sleep apnea typically reduces the presentation of these symptoms and complications and improve sleepiness, residual sleep disordered breathing (SDB), or some level of sleep apnea events despite the use of CPAP, can still occur. For example, if patients suffer from severe sleep apnea with 35 events per hour aka AHI (Apnea Hypopnea Index) and they use of CPAP reduces the events to 12 events per hour, it is great relief , but this patient still suffer from mild sleep apnea.
This means that despite the use of CPAP to manage their sleep apnea, patients with SDB may not achieve the full benefits of their treatment and instead, continue to suffer from symptoms and damage of OSA. Additionally, residual sleep disordered breathing has been associated with reduced CPAP adherence, further complicating treatment.
This makes monitoring and detecting clinically suspected residual SDB vital to ensuring adequate treatment in patients with OSA vital for optimal and effective patient care.
Unfortunately, existing practice is to rely on the CPAP machines themselves in order to detect residual breathing issues, since these machines utilize proprietary algorithms to quantify respiratory events and detect and report residual or untreated apneas.
However, recent data shows that for both fixed and auto-adjusting CPAP machines, of multiple leading brands, this quantification may be subject to significant error.
This is a fact that is glaringly evident when patients with acceptable CPAP data present with new or even worsening symptoms and comorbidities of OSA, signs highly associated with residual sleep disordered breathing.
That’s why research reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine set out to determine if there was a better, more accurate way to monitor for and detect residual SDB in patients on CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea.
Patients included in the study were actively using CPAP and had an apnea-hypoxia index (AHI) of five or fewer event per hour on their CPAP data report. Yet each was clinically suspected of being inadequately treated for their apnea.
Clinical criteria that led to a suspicion of SDB included:
Patients next underwent a single night of home sleep apnea testing using Itamar Medical’s WatchPAT™ 200, simultaneous with CPAP use at the usual prescribed settings.
WatchPATTM is an innovative diagnostic Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) that utilizes the peripheral arterial tone signal. The device measures up to 7 channels (PAT® signal, heart rate, oximetry, actigraphy, body position, snoring, and chest motion) via sensors on the wrist, chest and finger. And WatchPAT provides AHI and other indices based upon True Sleep Time as well as Sleep Staging and is clinically validated with an 89%1 correlation to polysomnography (PSG).
After simultaneous WatchPAT and CPAP monitoring of 100 patients, divided into two groups with similar mix of age, sex, and body mass index, participants were divided into two groups:
This means that WatchPAT AHI was significantly higher than the AHI detected with CPAP in nearly half of patients with clinically suspected residual sleep disordered breathing.
Additionally, WatchPAT revealed instances of moderate or severe REM AHI in both groups 1 and 2, which CPAP machines cannot detect, as well as instances of significant oxygen desaturation index and significantly lower nadir oxygen saturation in group 2.
Overall, the researchers concluded that WatchPAT detected additional respiratory events beyond those detected by the CPAP machines, including rapid eye movement-related apneas, respiratory effort-related arousals, and hypoxemia.
The results of this study mean that physicians treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea, when clinical symptoms are present, can no longer rely upon CPAP machines alone to ensure detection of residual SDB.
Instead, simultaneous monitoring with home sleep apnea testing, such as WatchPAT, even for patients with a normal CPAP AHI is necessary to ensure adequate treatment and prevent the long-term complications of sleep apnea.
1- Yalamanchali S, Farajian V, Hamilton C, Pott TR, Samuelson CG, Friedman M. Diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea by peripheral arterial tonometry: meta-analysis. JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. December 2013;139(12):1343-1350
There is little doubt that 2020 and the advent of COVID-19 will forever reshape the face of healthcare. From the meteoric rise in telemedicine to increasing stringency in infection prevention protocols, hospitals, clinics, and testing facilities must now adapt in order to succeed in the coming years. And one prime example of adaptation is that of sleep apnea testing.
By its very nature, traditional sleep apnea testing is not only high-touch (thanks to the devices used and staff required) but also high exposure, due to the length of time patients are expected to spend within a clinic’s walls and the nature of aerosols spread during irregular breathing and snoring. While the area within these walls provides safety for patients during testing, the truth is that some studies show that the longer a person spends in a public setting – which a sleep clinic has to be – the more likely their chances of contracting the virus.
This is why doctors and clinics across the world are turning to home-based sleep apnea testing.
In order to get the clinical data necessary to treat their patients without compromising their safety, cardiologists and sleep physicians now see home testing as the preferred way to diagnose sleep apnea conditions, all in an environment that’s both safe and familiar to their patients.
However, while moving the location of the test from the clinic or hospital to the patients home is definitely a step in the right direction for patient safety, there are other areas of potential infection risk requiring more necessary actions to ensure the highest level of mitigation.
A second area of infection risk embedded with the home sleep testing devices that are typically dispatched from one patient home to the next.
traditionally, all home sleep apnea testing devices on the market are designed to be re-used with some elements being disposable or washable, but this now serves as a potential risk of infection from previous patients or even staff to the next patients, as well as back again when the staff receives the device.
This creates vulnerability where there should be only a sense of safety, and is the driving force behind the recently issued American Association of Sleep Medicine “COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies” guideless and rise in demand for fully disposable home sleep apnea tests (HSATs).
This need is exactly why Itamar Medical created WatchPAT ONE, the first fully disposable HSAT. This one-time use device provides patients the comfort of sleep apnea testing in their own home and in their own bed, while ensuring they are never exposed to potential infection from reused devices and contamination transmitted from previous patients.
As soon as the study is complete, the prescribing clinician or the assigned board-certified sleep physician can review the automatically scored study results and provide interpretation and the patient can safely throw the WatchPAT ONE away. There is no need to mail the device or any part of it back, eliminating the chance that someone could be exposed to possible infection. Imagine, no delays in data transfer, which results in faster diagnosis, as well as protecting staff and patient alike.
And, since WatchPAT has been clinically validated against the “Gold Standard”, polysomnography (PSG), with a documented correlation of up to 89%1, it provides not only outstanding patient compliance but also clinical reliability.
In the COVID era, WatchPAT is the answer sleep physicians and patients are searching for to provide the testing they need without compromising safety.
1- Yalamanchali S, Farajian V, Hamilton C, Pott TR, Samuelson CG, Friedman M. Diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea by peripheral arterial tonometry: meta-analysis. JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. December 2013;139(12):1343-1350
Covid 19 and the Reshaping of the Sleep Apnea Clinic Model
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, potential sleep apnea patients were usually tested in an overnight facility, where their conditions were monitored and recorded, all overseen by a small team of medical professionals. They were asked to spend the night sleeping in a bed unfamiliar to them, in a noisy room surrounded with monitors and equipment, all while staff checked in on them throughout the duration of the test. It wasn’t perfect, but you could at least get an idea of what your patient was dealing with as they slept.
Now, with the pandemic continuing to affect everyone in one way or another, your patients are faced with far fewer options than in the past. Most, if not all testing facilities and clinics have severely cut back operations or have been forced to close outright. These facilities will need to make considerable changes to operations in order to open again and even then, most will likely choose to close at least in the short-term due to litigation concerns, insurance costs, and potentially higher levels of regulation and oversight. The road will be rough for many of these facilities, with many shutting their doors permanently.
Home as the New Diagnostic Center
No matter what happens, your patients will still need you to diagnose and treat their sleep disorders. The question becomes – how can you do it safely and effectively? The need for a new solution to both monitor and detect sleep apnea conditions in safe, familiar environment has never been greater. Your patients are looking to you for help. And up until now, a simple, effective, one-time use device that they can use in their own home while sleeping in their own bed did not exist.
Introducing the WatchPAT® ONE, the world’s first and only disposable HSAT from Itamar® Medical. This innovative, FDA-cleared wrist mounted device was created to diagnose Sleep Breathing Disorders (SBD) in the comfort of the patient’s own home. The WatchPAT has been clinically validated against the “Gold Standard”, polysomnography (PSG), with a documented correlation of up to 89%.1 Its simple design is both comfortable easy to use for outstanding patient compliance. It is clinically reliable, with 98% success rate.2 It measures “True Sleep Time” for the most accurate AHI, RDI, ODI and delivers:
* Complete sleep architecture for a comprehensive diagnosis
* Increased infection control with single-use design
* Scalable, cost effective solution for high volume workflow
* Automatically generated reports for fast diagnosis and treatment turnaround
* zzPAT -software with an advanced automatic algorithm for scoring of respiratory events
* CloudPAT-cloud based IT solution for convenient sleep diagnosis and secure patient data transfer
In a post-COVID world, ensuring patients can receive the diagnostic testing they need in the safety and comfort of their own home simply makes sense. Reach out today and talk to your Itamar representative about how to optimize sleep management in your practice.
1.Yalamanchali et al. JAMA Otolaryngnol Head Neck Surg, 2013, Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea by Peripheral Arterial Tonometry (Meta-Analysis)
2. Data on file
While it has long been understood that sleep apnea often underlies heart issues, the rate of the condition is still under-diagnosed in these patients, leaving their condition and its possible complications to worsen unchecked. Yet, the reason for the difficulty in reaching a sleep apnea diagnosis, especially in patients living with atrial fibrillation, has been a matter of debate. Now however, two separate peer-reviewed studies have revealed a common issue behind the diagnostic failure – the fact that the questionnaires currently in use are not identifying the sleep apnea patient in proper way.
Here we will take an in-depth look at each study in order to highlight the conclusions reached by the research teams.
Sleep apnea in ablation candidates with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
The first study, reported in IJC Heart & Vasculature, set out to determine the prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors as well as type of sleep apnea most common in ablation candidates with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
The researchers recruited 579 patients with paroxysmal AF and utilized polygraphy for two nights at home to diagnose sleep apnea. These results were also compared against questionnaire results including, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), STOP-Bang Questionnaire, and Berlin Questionnaire (BQ), which assessed the degree of sleep apnea symptoms.
The team found that approximately 82.7 percent of patients had an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) ≥ 5, with 42.1 percent of those studied having an AHI ≥ 15. The researchers also determined that the predominant type of sleep apnea affecting these patients was obstructive and that AHI increased with:
Importantly, the researchers also found no association between ESS and AHI and stated in their conclusions that “The high prevalence of SA detected in this study may indicate that SA is under-recognized in patients with AF.”
They also reported that none of the screening questionnaires predicted SA reliably.
The prevalence of undiagnosed sleep apnea in patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation
The second study we will discuss, briefly titled, “Prevalence of OSA in patients with AF”, set out to examine the prevalence of sleep apnea in atrial fibrillation patients referred for ablation.
This stated goal is due to the fact that while sleep apnea is known to be common if atrial fibrillation patients and is also associated with atrial remodeling as well as a high recurrence post-ablation, the prevalence of atrial fibrillation patients with undiagnosed sleep apnea had not been well established.
The research team recruited 188 patients scheduled to undergo ablation and who had no prior diagnosis of sleep apnea. All participants were required to complete the STOP-Bang sleep apnea screening questionnaire and undergo home sleep apnea testing.
The results of the home sleep apnea testing were positive in 82.4 percent of participants without a prior diagnosis of sleep apnea as follows:
For all positive participants a predominantly obstructive component was observed.
The researchers also found that a positive STOP-Bang questionnaire was not predictive for sleep apnea and that symptoms of the condition, including snoring, daytime sleepiness, and observed apneic episode were reported at a similar frequency in patients positive and negative for sleep apnea.
The conclusion of the study was that while undiagnosed sleep apnea is exceedingly prevalent in patients with atrial fibrillation who are referred for ablation, the use of screening questionnaires or symptom evaluation for diagnosis has limited predictive value.
The authors also stated that, “A universal SA screening strategy may be considered in all patients with symptomatic AF.”
Home sleep apnea testing enhances diagnosis and care
The results of these studies mean that physicians treating atrial fibrillation patients can no longer afford to rely upon screening questionnaires for sleep apnea diagnosis, since these tools are failing to pinpoint the condition accurately, which ultimately translates to a failure to provide appropriate care.
Instead, home sleep apnea testing is necessary on a broad scale for patients with atrial fibrillation so that they can receive the necessary treatment with continuous positive airway pressure ventilators to improve atrial fibrillation control.
Cardio Sleep Review (CSR) talks with Daniel Bensimhon, MD, Medical Director of The Advanced Heart and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, NC. Dr. Bensimhon is an Advanced Heart Failure cardiologist who treats patients with all levels of heart failure—from very mild (Class II) to patients who need full mechanical support and referral for cardiac transplantation (Class IV).
There are interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists, imaging specialists, among other specialties in a cardiology department. Why the need for a heart failure specialist?
Cardiology is becoming more and more subspecialized. We’re seeing more technologies and new devices in all fields of cardiology, especially in electrophysiology and interventional cardiology to help support people in cardiac distress. We’re finding that as people are living longer, surviving their heart attacks and living with heart failure, we need more and more treatment options in heart failure as well. The care of these patients is becoming more sophisticated and more complicated. There are new pharmaceutical agents and new devices coming to market. So, providing care for this potentially very sick patient population has warranted its own subspecialty of clinicians trained to care for patients with advanced heart failure and these issues that go along with it.
How do you collaborate and work with the other specialists within cardiology?
There are still many smaller practices in the country where they don’t have the ability to have multiple specialists. We have over 40 cardiologists in our group who all work well together. Although we are in a large community center, we function much like an academic program. Many of the complicated patients require services from general cardiology, but we still need imaging, interventional, and electrophysiology support as well. We work hand-in-hand. They rely on us to take care of the sickest heart failure and shock patients and we rely on them for interventional procedures and devices and to refer their appropriate patients to us in a timely fashion so that we can offer therapies before it’s too late.
Could you describe the patient population that you treat in the clinic?
We have about 3000 patients in our outpatient Heart Failure clinic. About two-thirds of them have systolic heart failure or HFrEF where their heart muscle is actually weak. And the other third has diastolic heart failure or HFpEF where their heart function is actually preserved, but they have a stiff heart.
Many of these patients are very limited. They have symptoms with minimal activity. They struggle with additional fluid overload and it’s quite intense to manage not only their volume status but to make sure that we’re treating their comorbidities. We want to make sure we are addressing everything that we feel affects their heart failure and functional capacity. We’re getting them on guideline-directed medical therapy, having devices implanted, referring for rehab, placing heart monitors, and ordering sleep studies.
If those strategies are not enough to optimize a patient, we then consider our advanced therapy options. There’s a lot of data now that says these patients are difficult to treat, that the majority of these patients aren’t on the guideline-directed medical therapies, and that they are under-treated. Our focus is to be very aggressive and make sure these patients are treated as aggressively as possible before we turn to an LVAD or transplant.
From your perspective, what’s the connection between sleep apnea and heart failure?
I think we’ve realized for a long time that there is a link between sleep apnea and worse cardiovascular outcomes in our patients. That said, not all the data has been consistent. There has been a direct link between untreated sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation and hypertension —both of which are huge risk factors for congestive heart failure. Unless you get their sleep apnea under control, you are not going to get those risk factors under control. Whether or not there is a direct link between sleep apnea and worsening heart failure outcomes or it is mediated by these risk factors remains unclear. In our clinical experience, certainly, it seems that heart failure patients with the worst sleep apnea are more symptomatic and have been more difficult to manage.
More recently, I think people are realizing that many of the abnormalities in ventilation that we see in sleep apnea, also occur in heart failure – and we see this frequently in our cardiometabolic exercise lab. Heart failure patients have a much higher incidence of central sleep apnea where the ventilation processes in the brain don’t work as well as they should, and they can have very abnormal ventilatory patterns both during sleep and during activity.
There is a tighter and tighter link between undetected or uncontrolled sleep apnea and heart failure. One line that we’re still trying to connect is, is there a direct connection between the treatment of sleep apnea and improved heart failure outcomes. There has been some data on both sides of the fence saying that yes there’s a huge benefit and on the other side, maybe not. Maybe there could even be harmful. We need more studies, more data to confirm what instinctively we know.
As I mentioned above, in our clinic, we see that with our patients who have sleep apnea and are under-treated or not treated, we have a much harder time controlling their risk factors. We have a much harder time controlling their hypertension, a much harder time controlling their atrial fibrillation; and most importantly, we have a really hard time controlling their symptoms. They come in and say that they’re fatigued, and we can’t tell if its heart failure or sleep apnea. What is it? Why are they so fatigued and why are they so limited? So, our goal is to address all their risk factors and to improve their sleep apnea symptoms to really try and get at what effect is it having on their heart failure.
Personally, I think that there’s a very strong link between the treatment of sleep apnea and improvement in heart failure symptoms and potential outcomes. But the data we have so far has been limited and doesn’t completely support these observations. I do not think we know the whole story yet. We still need more studies, more data.
What would be the best scenario for how you would describe sleep apnea management in the clinic?
It’s different in every situation. Cardiology clinics come in many different forms. For us, in our Heart Failure clinic, it’s important for us to own the process. Given what’s on the line for these patients with advanced symptoms, we want to own the patient. If we think there’s something important that’s going to improve their heart failure, whether it be managing their fluid status or getting them an ICD, we’re going to manage that process. We’re going to start the therapy. We’re going to prescribe and implement that therapy. We’re going to follow up with them. With sleep apnea, we really haven’t had the ability to do that. What typically happens is that we say, “you need a sleep study.” We write the order and then we trust that the process works.
We need to own that process. We need to be able to get the patients to comply with testing and get them tested quickly. We need to see the results and know how bad the problem is. We then need to decide how hard we’re going to push to get our patients on therapy quickly. Finally, as with any therapy we prescribe, we want to be able to track compliance and outcomes. Are they using their CPAP? How often? How long? Is their AHI improving?
In our clinic, we are fortunate to have two cardiologists who are also well-trained sleep doctors. Nevertheless, as these are our patients, we want to own the process in conjunction with our sleep doctors and work collaboratively with them to make sure patients are getting treated aggressively in a timely fashion. If our patients aren’t following up with their sleep doctor, we want to know about it so we can get them back to their sleep doctor and work on this.
Our philosophy can be summed up by one word—ownership. Ownership of our patients and their outcomes every step of the way.
Prior to using the WatchPat TurnKey program, how were you diagnosing, managing, and treating cardiac patients with sleep apnea?
As I said above, we’re fortunate enough in our practice to have two cardiologists who are also trained in sleep medicine. In the past, we would typically refer our patients with suspect sleep apnea to them for a sleep evaluation and potential sleep study. Many smaller cardiology practices are still referring patients to neurology or pulmonology or to internal medicine doctors who are also trained in sleep apnea. T
The reason we started looking at the WatchPat device is that prior to using it there were many opportunities for a breakdown. We would see a patient in the clinic, and say “hmmm, I think he or she may have sleep apnea” and then there’s a process that has to happen between the time of your suspicion and the time of effective therapy. There are several steps in that process.
The first step is to get the patient to the sleep doctor to see if they agree with the need for a sleep study or not. This involved scheduling the patient for an appointment at another office and hoping they would keep their appointment.
Step two. Once they were seen by our sleep doctor, the next step was getting them to agree to go to the sleep lab for a sleep study. Telling a patient who is relatively non-compliant and who might not get the link between sleep and their heart failure isn’t often an easy sell. Basically, you’re saying, “you have to go to the hospital or somewhere and sleep in a strange bed for a night or two, and they’re going to put this mask on you…It didn’t always go over well.”
Step three. Once you finally get them to agree to a sleep study, there’s typically a two or three-week waiting period before they get an appointment in the sleep lab – which they may or may not show up for – and then you have to wait for the results to be analyzed and get a report back; which can also take a few days.
Step four. The patient had to follow-up with the sleep physician to determine the best treatment and implement therapy. If they’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, they’ll probably be prescribed a C-PAP mask. Finding the right mask and fit can be problematic. The patient may not like the first mask and just give up without ever working through the options. They drop out of sight and you have no idea what happened. Then they show up in the heart failure clinic in 4 months and you ask them how their sleep study went and over half the time they either never had their sleep study or they had it and didn’t get the results or couldn’t tolerate the mask and we never knew anything about it.
To be more successful in getting patients on therapy we set out to own the process and break down the barriers at each step along the way. Things like, “How can we make sure that the patient agrees to and gets scheduled for a sleep study before they leave our clinic? Can we send a device to their home and make the test simpler for them? How can we make sure that we get the results quickly and follow up on those results quickly? How do we connect the loop with the DME and make sure that once the study is positive, we have a DME that’s engaged and willing to follow them? And then once therapy is prescribed, how do we make sure they’re complying with their therapy and how do we monitor that? And most importantly, how do we get kept in the loop along the way?”
Those are the reasons for us using the WatchPAT Turnkey. The desire to simplify the process and own the process– so it’s not able to break down at so many different touchpoints.
How has using WatchPAT affected your practice and patient outcomes?
We’re early on into the process—probably about 40 studies in. We operate in a larger practice and we want to have buy-in with our sleep doctors. We want to make sure that what we’re doing is not only good for our patients but also works for our practice flow.
Currently, we see the patient in the clinic, and we order the device right then and there. The order goes out, and in a day or two, the device shows up at the patient’s house. The patient’s ability to-do their sleep study and we’re seeing the results very quickly. In fact, our pull-through rate has probably gone from 50 to 90 percent for prescribing and compliant use of the at-home sleep apnea test. Now we are focusing on working through the DME process to make sure that more patients are getting the therapy that works for them and setting up the WatchPAT Cloud system so we can follow their progress in real-time.
Were you able to use the WatchPAT system during Covid-19 for any of your patients?
That was a major impetus. Typical sleep studies are an aerosolized procedure much like PFTs and exercise stress tests. So these were all completely canceled at our center for several months due to the high-risk f viral transmission and are still only done only on a limited basis.
The WatchPAT offers us a way to not only continue testing but to do so in a much lower risk setting. The WatchPAT can be done at home, is completely disposable, and does not utilize an airway component. Thus, we can reassure patients that not only are they getting the test they need but we are doing it in the safest way possible. At our hospital, we call this iCARE values and it means putting the patient first and saying, “we’re concerned about you.” So now we cannot only offer our patients easy access to testing, but we can offer testing in the convenience and safety of their own homes. Patients have responded dramatically well to this approach and we are actually doing more testing in our clinic now then we were doing before the COVID pandemic hit. It has been a true win-win so far.
By Efrat Magidov
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a potentially life-threatening condition that may be exacerbated by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which has been verified as an independent causal factor in the pathogenesis of hypertension and vascular dysfunction. More specifically, several pathomechanisms have been suggested to account for the potential adverse effect of OSA on AAA:
The attempts to link obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to AAA are based on early studies of patients with Marfan’s syndrome. In the early 90s, it was first suspected that OSA may have deleterious effects on the aorta in Marfan’s syndrome patients. Later researchers demonstrated higher prevalence of OSA in those patients and described a correlation between OSA severity (as measured by the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI)) and aortic root diameter (r=0.5, p<0.001). In a follow-up longitudinal study of 44 Marfan’s syndrome patients, only subjects with OSA developed an aortic event (after a median follow-up time of 29 months). Although the relative risk of OSA was not successfully assessed due to the small sample size, this remains the only longitudinal study which investigated the effect of OSA on the aorta by means of events (rather than disease parameters).1
Several cross-sectional studies on the general population found a positive association between the aortic root diameter and OSA severity.
Interestingly, simulating OSA in healthy volunteers with the use of Muller’s maneuver induced considerable changes in both blood pressure and proximal aortic diameter and area, probably due to increased aortic dilatory pressures. Observational studies have consistently reported that OSA is highly prevalent among patients with AAA. In one such study by Mason and colleagues, 127 patients (11 women, mean age 67.9±6) with an abdominal aortic measurement greater than or equal to 30 mm were examined. Home sleep monitoring was used to assess OSA presence in terms of ODI (>4%) and AHI. Approximately 40% of the patients were found to have an ODI greater than 10 per hour, representing a 5-fold greater incidence than in a comparable normal population. Similarly, 29% of the patients had AHI greater than 15, almost 2 times higher than the normal prevalence values.
These results correspond to other studies demonstrating up to 60% OSA presence in AAA patients which is significantly higher than the estimated prevalence of 17% in the general population. Importantly, subjective reports did not reveal a correlative sleepiness, suggesting that daytime sleepiness is not suitable for detecting OSA in AAA patients.
The researchers went on to examine whether OSA can explain occurrences of AAA expansion. They compared the AAA diameter of two duplex scans; one from the recruitment phase and another before the sleep study (median follow-up time was 18 months). Severe OSA, represented by ODI and AHI greater than 30, was found to be significantly associated with a high AAA expansion rate (ODI- 2.9 mm per year, p=0.009; AHI- 2.2 mm per year, p=0.043 – Figure 1). These results were derived after adjustment to cardiovascular risk factors and medication use, and therefore represent OSA relative risk. The presence of correlation only at severe OSA suggests a threshold effect rather than a simple linear dose–response relationship between OSA severity and AAA expansion rate.2
Through these studies, it is becoming clear that successful diagnosis of OSA in AAA patients can be an important factor in managing the risk of lethal aortic complications. Future studies will hopefully examine the potential beneficial effects of OSA-treatment on AAA. WatchPAT, a home sleep apnea test device, is a simple, accurate and reliable tool for OSA diagnosis. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solutions” for Cardiology practices at www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Efrat Magidov
Bradycardia is defined by the American Heart Association as a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute (BPM) but adds that what’s “too slow” depends on various factors such as age, physical fitness and physiological condition. During sleep for example, the parasympathetic tone predominates (as NREM sleep occupies 80% of total sleep time), resulting in commonly occurring bradyarrythmias, sinus pauses greater than 2 seconds, and atrioventricular (AV) conduction delays. However, some cases of nocturnal bradyarrythmias are not normal, and reflect acute bradycardia that is prevalent also in wakefulness and can lead to various hazardous complications. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) was found to be a promoting factor for such incidences.
Numerous studies have demonstrated increased prevalence of bradyarrytmias in OSA patients; In the classic study by Guilleminault et al1 who looked at 400 patients with OSA, 48% had significant nocturnal arrhythmia with 18% bradyarrhythmia, 11% sinus arrest, and 8% AV blocks. These percentiles were surprisingly high, considering that the known prevalence of nocturnal bradyarrythmias in the general population was around 3%2. There were no important differences in age, body weight, apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), or minimum oxygen saturation between those with and without arrhythmias. In a more recent Japanese study by Abe et al3, 1350 OSA patients and 44 control subjects were screened, and significant increase in incidence of sinus bradycardias (12.5% with OSA vs. 2.3% control, p=0.036) and sinus pause (8.7% with OSA vs. 2.3% control, p<0.001) was noted. Importantly, using long-term monitoring by implanted pacemakers reveals an even higher bradyarrythmias percentages (up to 34%4), suggesting that OSA increase the risk for bradycardia even more dramatically.
Not only that OSA increases the prevalence of brayarrythmias, some studies have found that OSA severity is correlated to the extent of bradyarrytmias, with up to 3 times higher incidence of bradycardic arrhythmias in severe OSA patients (compared to milder OSA)5. Such correlation implies that there’s a causal relation between the two, in which OSA promotes bradycardia.
The mechanism by which OSA can reduce the heart rate is demonstrated in the presented figure: during OSA, structural changes occur in the airway to obstruct airflow (Resp), and the resulting apnea activates hypoxic reflexes (SaO2 %), which in turn lead to profound elevation in sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) and subsequently elevation of atrial blood pressure (ABP) and decrease of the heart rhythm (ECG). Various studies confirmed that the elevation in vagal tone is the key contributor to the bradyarrythmias, whereas other factors such as sinus node anatomy or artioventrucular conduction are largely intact in OSA patients6. The finding that intravenous atropine administration eliminates the marked sinus arrhythmia and bradyarrhythmias observed in such patients6 supports this hypothesis. Moreover, mimicking OSA in wakefulness with the Mueller maneuver results in induced bradycardia7, further confirming that the combination between prolonged negative intrathoracic pressures and the resulting hypoxemia is the necessary underlying “mix” i n this unique pathophysiology.
The crossover between Bradyarrythmias and OSA is also apparent by the beneficial implications of OSA treatment on bradycardia severity. Specifically, Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy has been shown to be highly effective in abolition and reduction of bradyarrhythmias. In the Abe study for example, sinus bradycardia (p<0.001) and sinus pauses (P=0.004) were dramatically reduced by CPAP therapy3. Thus, the current recommendation for physicians for patients with bradyarrhythmias who are at risk for OSA, is to perform overnight polysmonography prior to pacemaker implantation, especially in younger individuals without underlying cardiac disease. Permanent pacemakers should be considered if significant bradyarrhythmia or pauses persist after adequate treatment trial with PAP therapy.
WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for polysomnography and OSA diagnosis. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Efrat Magidov
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) occurs in 20-25% of the general population. Most people with PFO are not symptomatic, and problems ordinarily arise only when the blood-flow’s directionality between the chambers is from the right atrium to the left atrium, a condition known as right to left shunting (RLS). Such right-to-left atrial shunting across the “open door” of the septum premium leads to low arterial O2 tension, promoting the occurrence of thromboembolic events and consequently the risk of ischemic strokes.
In the last two decades numerous studies found a high prevalence of PFO in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients. In the first attempt to check for such correlation, Shanoudy and colleagues1 examined 48 OSA patients (mean age 57 ± 12.3 years) and 24 healthy controls (mean age 65 ± 9.5 years) and found that the prevalence of PFO (detected by means of contrast transesophageal echocardiography) was 4 times higher in patients with OSA (69% vs 17%; p < 0.0001).
To determine the potential contribution of RLS, the researchers systematically measured O2 desaturation following the performance of Valsalva maneuver. They found that the drop in SaO2 was significantly higher in patients with both OSA and PFO, supporting the hypothesis of RLS as the underlying contributor for the observed OSA-PFO interaction. Since this original study, many others have replicated the observed high occurrence of RLS in OSA patients2-5, establishing the strong association between the two pathologies.
Scientists attribute this strong association to the bidirectional pathophysiological effects between PFO and OSA; on one hand the arterial desaturation associated with RLS may play a role in the development of sleep apnea, as the short hypoxemic events following RLS aggravate the already disturbed central breathing regulation in OSA. On the other hand, OSA can make PFO more symptomatic: The rising arterial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2) in the context of apneas induces breathing efforts against the closed glottis, which briefly elevates right atrial pressure above left atrial pressure and leads to shunting of de-oxygenated blood to the systemic side in cases of a PFO.
In support of the hypothesis that PFO may exacerbate hypoxemia and unfavorably affect physiologic sleep parameters, significant improvements of OSA symptoms were reported after PFO closure. Rimoldi and colleagues6 looked at 40 newly diagnosed OSA patients, out of which 14 had PFO and underwent initial device closure. During follow-up, apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) decreased from 38.6±16.0 to 30.4±16.1 events per hour in the PFO closure group (p = 0.0034), while not changing in the no-PFO group. This AHI reduction was accompanied by a mitigated oxygen de-saturation index (ODI), a nocturnal systemic blood pressure reduction of 5 mm Hg, and lowered pulmonary pressure values with enhanced left ventricular diastolic function. These results support the above suggested mechanism by showing a normalization of the estimated pulmonary pressure in response to PFO closure, together with augmented diastolic function of the left ventricle and reduced nocturnal systolic blood pressure. Interestingly, some attempts to study the opposite effects of the two pathologies on each other have also been made, revealing beneficial affects of OSA treatment (by means of continuous positive airway pressure) on RLS severeness7-8, further supporting the bidirectional pathophysiology.
Taken together, these findings stretch the importance of successful diagnosis of OSA in PFO patients (and vice versa) in managing the risks the two pathologies have on each other. WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis. The device also supports accurate monitoring of nocturnal SaO2 and therefor ideal for assessing RLS severeness in those patients. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Efrat Magidov
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition, with multiple potential neurocognitive, cardiovascular, and metabolic consequences. Efficacious treatment is available, and the diagnosis procedure and its availability keep improving. The use of home sleep apnea testing (HSAT), also known as portable monitoring (PM), for the diagnosis of OSA is continuing to grow as a viable option for sleep professionals. Currently, available HSAT devices are user-friendly, easily portable, and most importantly- reliable. Numerous randomized studies comparing ambulatory and laboratory-based approaches have generally found HSAT non-inferior to a laboratory approach in adults with OSA, especially in patients with a high likelihood of moderate-severe disease. Consequently, HSAT is growing to be the go-to approach for patients with a high likelihood of OSA without other significant medical conditions.
HSAT is a favorable approach also due to the convenience it offers. HSAT allows patients to avoid the overnight stay at the sleep center, with fewer attached wires and access to the comforts of home. HSAT also provides more access to the testing; Sleep centers may not be accessible due to location or even scheduling. Home testing devices can be sent home from the doctor’s office, and thus offer a quicker diagnostic turn-around time. Moreover, since In-lab testing requires paying for space, technicians, and scoring, HSAT is typically more cost-efficient for both the patients and the healthcare system. However, despite all these numerous advantages of HSAT over laboratory-based testing, most ambulatory devices still have some notable limitations:
In the future, HSAT might be the dominant approach to diagnosing and monitoring patients regularly, easily, and economically. Therefore it is crucial for the ambulatory devices to optimally account for all the mentioned limitations.
The use of home sleep apnea testing (HSAT), also known as portable monitoring (PM), for the diagnosis of OSA is continuing to grow as a viable option for sleep professionals. Currently, available HSAT devices are user-friendly, easily portable, and most importantly- reliable.
WatchPAT is easy to use, effective, and accurate HSAT device for OSA diagnosis. To date, WatchPAT with its innovative peripheral arterial tone (PAT) signal is the only FDA-approved HSAT device that measures true sleep time, all sleep stages (wake/arousal, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep) and body position without the use of EEG. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
Malhotra, A., Orr, J. E., & Owens, R. L. (2015). On the cutting edge of obstructive sleep apnoea: where next? The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 3(5), 397-403.
Hilbert, J., & Yaggi, H. K. (2018). Patient-centered care in obstructive sleep apnea: A vision for the future. Sleep medicine reviews, 37, 138-147.
By Efrat Magidov
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) is nowadays part of standard therapy in patients with symptomatic Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). However, the long-term cardiovascular outcomes after this procedure remain suboptimal1, and researchers are still investigating which patient characteristics effect the post-PCI cardiovascular risks. In the past decade, multiple observational studies have examined the association between the presence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and the recurrence of cardiovascular events in patients treated with PCI. Recently, a group of researchers from Beijing Anzhen Hospital conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of these studies2, with the aim of shedding more light on the impact of OSA on subsequent cardiovascular outcomes after PCI. Overall 9 studies with 2755 participants were evaluated. In all studies, patients who underwent a successful PCI procedure were recruited prospectively for a sleep study in order to scan for OSA (based on standardized assessment of AHI in all studies, with AHI≥15 as cut-off value in most studies). The median follow-up duration was from 227 days to 5.6 years, and the primary endpoint was major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE), including all-cause or cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, stroke, repeat revascularization, or heart failure. All studies had no treatments for OSA during this period.
Overall, the prevalence of OSA in patients treated with PCI ranged from 35.3% to 61.8%. OSA was associated with increased risk of MACE after PCI (pooled risk ratio [RR] 1.96, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.36–2.81, P<.001). Moreover, the studies show that the presence of OSA significantly increased the incidence of all-cause death (4 studies), cardiovascular death (4 studies) and repeat revascularization (7 studies) in patients after PCI. For example, Zhang and colleagues3 found that the presence of OSA in post-PCI patients significantly increased the incidence of MACEs, the presence of three-vessel disease, the number of total implanted stents and the length of the stent when compared to the non-OSA group (25.0% vs 16.0%, P=0.038; 34.9% vs 23.4%, P=0.020; 3.3±2.0 vs 2.8±1.9, P=0.007; 83.8±53.1 vs 68.7±48.4 mm, P=0.010). Similarly, Mazaki and colleagues4 found that the cumulative incidence of MACE events was significantly higher in patients with Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) than in those without SDB (21.4% versus 7.8%, P=0.006, Figure). Importantly, this effect of SDB on MACE was significant also after adjustment for potential confounders such as age, smoking, ejection fraction, mean SaO2, minimum SaO2, use of b-blockers, and use of statins (adjusted hazard ratio 2.28, 95% CI 1.06–4.92; P=0.035).
This strong effect of OSA presence on complications and morbidity following PCI, motivated some researchers to look into the effects of OSA treatment on the post-PCI outcomes. In one retrospective cohort study, Cassar and colleagues5 found that PCI patients treated for OSA had a statistically significant decreased number of cardiac deaths on follow-up when compared with untreated OSA patients (3% vs. 10% after 5 years, p=0.027),
as well as a trend toward decreased all-cause mortality (p=0.058). However, there was no difference in the number of MACE between the two groups, leaving the question of whether treatment of OSA prevents MACE in need for further investigation.
This review helped clarifying the importance of successful diagnosis of OSA in patients who underwent PCI treatment for better assessment of the risk for potential subsequent cardiovascular events. WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Rhonda Welch, CPC
Home Sleep Apnea Tests (HSAT) have increased in utilization and based on recent estimates amount to about a third of all sleep apnea tests due to their cost effectiveness and accessibility in comparison to in lab, attend Polysomnography testing. An HSAT is a preference for many patients since they can take the test at home in a more natural, relaxing and private environment that is also more likely to reflect the actual disease manifestation.
Today, the vast majority payers reimburse for HSAT and some recommend it as first line diagnosis for sleep apnea. However their coding and billing requirements differ from payer to payer. It is always best to check with your payer for their specific requirements, but this article will outline some of the basics.
With few exceptions, licensed medical doctors, regardless of the their specialty, can prescribe HSAT to patients who are suspected of sleep apnea based on sign and symptoms and testing positive for high risk on validated instruments such as the STOPBANG, Epworth Sleepiness and DOISNORE 50 questionnaires. In addition, physicians may also consider clinical symptoms such as atrial fibrillation and hypertension as signs for high pre-test probability, based on the most recent AASM guidelines1.
In 2007 the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) published the “Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Unattended Portable Monitors in the Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adult Patients”2 which differentiated the HSATs by type (defined by the AASM). In the following year, Medicare introduced the HCPCS Level II codes G0398, G0399 and G0400 which followed the AASM types. G codes are “carrier determined” which means that payment is up to the discretion of the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs).
G0398 Home sleep study with type II portable monitor, unattended; minimum of 7 channels: EEG, EOG, EMG, ECG/heart rate, airflow, respiratory effort and oxygen saturation.
G0399 Home sleep study with type III portable monitor, unattended; minimum of 4 channels: 2 respiratory movement/airflow, 1 ECG/heart rate and 1 oxygen saturation.
In 2009, CMS issued a National Coverage Determination (NCD) which called out the WatchPAT as a covered test.
Today, most CMS MACs request the use of G codes to report HSATs and request the use of G0400
to report WatchPAT.
In 2011, the AMA added the CPT codes 95800 and 95801 to describe HSAT using peripheral arterial tone (ie WatchPAT). Note that WatchPAT records sleep time so CPT 95800, not 95801 should be used to report HSAT using WatchPAT. Most commercial payers request the use of 95800 to report WatchPAT.
95800 Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory analysis (eg. by airflow or peripheral arterial tone), and sleep time.
95801 Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory analysis (eg. by airflow or peripheral arterial tone).
In 2017 AASM clarified their position in a guideline, noting that the types classification fails to consider new technologies such as peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT). They proposed another classification scheme but acknowledged that it has not been utilized by many. The AASM concluded that devices that measure PAT, actigraphy, and oximetry are technically adequate to diagnose OSA and therefore recommended that physicians use such HSATs to diagnose OSA.3
The bottom line is that there are multiple codes that can be used to report HSAT. Typically, CMS requests that WatchPAT be reported with G0400 and commercial payers request 95800. Since HSAT may reported by more than one code, it is best to refer to the payer’s medical policy to ensure you are reporting the correct code.
In upcoming newsletter editions, we will explore additional topics including when to bill the global, technical and professional components of the code, credentialing and accreditation issues.
 Kapur et al., Clinical Practice Guideline for Diagnostic Testing for Adult Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline, 13 J. Clin. Sleep Med. 479 (Mar. 15, 2017).
 Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Unattended Portable Monitors in the Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adult Patients. JCSM Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 7, 2007.
CMS Pub 100-03 Medicare National Coverage Determinations (NCD) – Sleep Testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Transmittal R103NCD March 3, 2009
By Efrat Magidov
Heart failure (HF) is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, excessive tiredness and leg swelling. In spite of continuous improvement of pharmacological and device therapy, HF remains a major public health problem associated with high morbidity, frequent hospitalizations and readmissions and high economical cost. Therefore, a better understanding of HF’s pathogenesis and co-morbidities is essential for improvement of risk stratification and prevention.
Among multiple co-morbidities, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and in particular obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is the most common; Almost 50% of patients with HF have alterations of ventilation during sleep that can disrupt the positive effects of physiological sleep on the cardiovascular system. In two studies including patients with HF undergoing polysomnography, OSA was detected in 37% and 11% of patients, and the Sleep Heart Health Study – a perspective study comprising 6,424 men and women, indicated that the presence of OSA (defined as an apnoea–hypopnoea index (AHI) ≥10 per hour) favored the appearance of HF independently of other known risk factors, with a 2.20 relative risk.
The complex interaction between HF and OSA seems to be bi-directional; Some factors of HF can favor the collapse of the upper airways and thus increase risk of OSA. For example, HF is characterized by fluid shifts from the legs to central structures (peripheral oedema), especially in supine position, which can lead to upper airways narrowing. Conversely, OSA increase the risk of HF by multiple mechanisms; Obstructive apneas during sleep induce a series of systemic hemodynamic, autonomic, and humoral changes with adverse consequences for the cardiovascular system in individuals with normal ventricular function. The repeated occurrence of apneas and hypopneas has been associated with deranged endothelial function, an increase in the plasma concentration of inflammatory markers, increased platelet agreeability, and increased variability in blood pressure and heart rate.
Moreover, the negative intrathoracic pressure during obstructive apnea results in increased venous return to the right ventricle and increased left ventricular (LV) transmural pressure, both are damaging the LV function. These recurrent events that accompany repeated obstructive apnea determine a further increase of the already elevated sympathetic activity in patients with HF, documented by increased plasma catecholamine. Obstructive events during sleep can also have long-term effects, for example by the induction of genes involved in ventricular remodeling caused by the repetitive increases in wall stress, and by inducing myocyte slippage and contractile dysfunction. Thus there’s a growing understanding that the OSA-HF interaction has causal aspects, and does not reflect mere co-morbidity.
Thus successful diagnosis and treatment of OSA is key for HF relief. In the first study to examine the effects of treating OSA in patients with HF, CPAP treatment was associated with a significant increase in mean LV ejection fraction and a reduction in HF related dyspnoea (shortness of breath). In a study led by the renowned cardiologist Gregory Lip, treatment of OSA by CPAP therapy significantly improved structural and functional changes in the LV. In the long run OSA treatment has also been shown to lower hospital readmission rate and mortality of patients with HF. Diagnosis is not always easy since most patients with HF and OSA do not complain of daytime sleepiness (the most pronounced OSA symptom), probably because of the high sympathetic tone in HF. Thus the occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing might not be identified unless a patient’s bed partner is also interviewed. The current recommendation for physicians is to test for OSA in patients with HF presenting with paroxysmal or recurrent atrial fibrillation, hypertension refractory to optimal HF therapy, increased body mass index and unanticipated pulmonary hypertension or right ventricular dysfunction.
Since attended polysomnography is a complex test that is expensive and not easily available, home sleep apnea test might be the best solution for these patients.
By Efrat Magidov
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is the most common source for abnormal heart rhythm, affecting 33.5 million people worldwide. AFib is caused by disorganized electrical signals, which make the heart’s two upper chambers -called the atria – to quiver, instead of contracting properly. There are numerous risk factors for developing AFib. A relatively new defined risk factor is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and the understanding of the exact relationship of it to AFib is still evolving. It is estimated that 21-74% of AFib patients have OSA (exact percentile differs in dependence of OSA definition and the applied measuring technic). Conversely, patients with sleep apnea have around four times higher risk of developing AFib than control patients or the general population.
A recently published review summarizes the current understanding on how OSA pathophysiology is associated with development of arrhythmogenic substrates, and on the ways in which OSA treatment helps AFib risk management. We present here some of the main reviewed findings.
Mechanisms by which OSA contributes to the pathogenesis of AFib
The repetitive obstructive respiratory events characterizing OSA, cause negative intrathoracic pressure swings which mostly affect the thin-walled atria, causing it to over-stretch. Such acute atrial dilation shortens atrial refractoriness, slows conduction, and increases the occurrence of intra-atrial conduction block. Moreover, the cyclical deoxygenation and reoxygenation associated with sleep apnea increase oxidative stress, contributing to the atrial myocardial damage. In addition to the atrial remodeling factors, the pronounced sympathovagal activation that occurs toward the end of an obstructive episode induces acute electrophysiological arrhythmogenic changes and an increased frequency of premature atrial contractions with the potential to initiate AFib. The progressive atrial structural remodeling, along with transient apnea-associated electrophysiological changes, contributes to the reentry substrate for AFib and creates a complex and dynamic arrhythmogenic substrate in the atrium. Importantly, other chronic comorbidities such as obesity and hypertension further increase AFib risk in OSA patients.
Challenges in OSA diagnosis in AFib patients
As not all AFib patients show symptoms of OSA (e.g. daytime sleepiness), the general recommendation is to screen all AFib patients with a sleep study evaluation. However, it’s important to notice that the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) should not be the only derived index by which OSA is determined; In a cohort study of 3542 adults, the magnitude of nocturnal oxygen desaturation, but not the AHI, was shown to be an independent predictor of new-onset AFib. Thus, evaluating the hypoxemic burden, and not only the AHI, is crucial for successful AFib evaluation. Another factor that should be taken into account in the diagnosis process is screening not only for OSA, but also for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). For example, in a study of 2911 participants, AFib was associated with CSA more than with OSA. Similarly, rhythm control by electrical cardioversion was not associate with changes in the absolute AHI scores but did have an association with reduced nocturnal central respiratory events and unmasked OSA. Nonetheless, the causal direction between AFib and CSA is not yet clear: the high proportion of central respiratory events may reflect the underlying cardiac disease, rather than representing a causal factor for AFib.
Treatment of OSA in AFib patients
The presence of OSA substantially reduces the efficacy of catheter-based and pharmacological antiarrhythmic therapy, and thus effectively treating OSA is crucial for AFib relief. CPAP, the gold-standard OSA treatment method, had been shown to be effective in AFib treatment. CPAP can help to maintain sinus rhythm in AFib-OSA patients and to reduce AFib recurrence after catheter-based AFib therapy. A recent meta-analysis revealed that patients with OSA not treated with CPAP have 57% greater risk of AFib compared to patients without OSA. However, since all the findings on CPAP efficiency in AFib are based on nonrandomized studies, and since CPAP use was only self-reported, the reviewers point to the incompleteness of the findings and suggest that more randomized prospective observations should be made before concluding on CPAP efficiency in AFib patients. Other OSA/CSA treatment interventions, such as ganglionated plexus ablation and renal sympathetic denervation, had been shown to attenuate AFib in a series of preclinical studies. Lifetime interventions that reduce OSA severity and risk such as weight control further contribute AFib ablation.
Although, as mentioned by the reviewers, there is a need for more studies before finalizing the conclusions on the association between OSA and AFib, the professional societies already incorporate some of the current findings in their recent recommendations. The 2016 European Society of Cardiology guidelines on AFib recommends that consideration be given to elicited clinical symptoms and signs of OSA and CPAP treatment to reduce AFib recurrence and improve AFib treatment results. Similarly, The “2017 HRS/EHRA/ECAS/APHRS/SOLAECE Expert Consensus Statement on Catheter and Surgical Ablation of Atrial Fibrillation” mentions OSA as a relevant modifiable risk factor for AFib and recommends screening for signs and symptoms of OSA when evaluating a patient for an AFib ablation procedure. It also states that treatment of OSA can be useful for patients with AFib, including those who are being evaluated to undergo an AFib ablation procedure.
WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis. The device uses both AHI and oxygen desaturation values to determine OSA severity, and thus is ideal for the evaluation of OSA and AFib association. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solutions” for Cardiology practices at www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Efrat Magidov
Stroke, sometimes referred to as a “brain attack”, is a medical emergency and a leading cause of death around the world, occurring when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Such deficit can happen when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (Hemorrhagic stroke) or, more commonly, when a blockage develops (Ischemic stroke). If not treated immediately, brain cells begin to die within minutes, resulting in serious disability or death.
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), and especially its most common form – obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), has been associated with increased risk for ischemic stroke. Recently, a large prospective cohort study followed 5422 individuals without a history of stroke for a median of 8.7 years1. Chances of ischemic stroke in men were shown to be increased with OSA severity (as measured by AHI), even after adjustment for potential confounders (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 2.86, 95% CI 1.10-7.39). Overall OSA was found to be associated with an approximately three-fold increase risk of ischemic stroke in men, resonating findings from previous studies that demonstrated 4- to 6-fold higher prevalence of OSA in stroke patients2. Moreover, it had been shown that treatment of OSA decrease mortality and improve functional recovery after stroke3.
This strong connection between OSA and stroke is not surprising considering the fact that OSA affects all major risk factors of stroke: hypertension, hyperlipidemia, hypoxemia, diabetes and atrial fibrillation. However, the underlying mechanisms by which OSA increases the risk, independent of these traditional risk factors, have not been established. Nevertheless, some notable attempts to suggest a causal mechanism have been made. Here are examples of two such suggested mechanisms:
Decreased cerebral blood flow velocity: Ordinarily, the brain regulates its blood flow to meet its own metabolic needs, even in the face of changes in blood pressure, a process known as cerebral autoregulation. The repeated surges and drops in blood pressure, oxygen level and blood flow during numerous apnea episodes each night, reduces the brain’s ability to regulate these functions. This mechanism was demonstrated by a study conducted at Yale Center for Sleep Medicine4; 48 subjects, 22 diagnosed with OSA (AHI≥30) and 26 controls (AHI<5), free of cerebrovascular and active coronary artery disease, participated in this study. Cerebral autoregulation was examined by measuring cerebral artery blood flow velocity (CBFV) and arterial blood pressure during orthostatic hypotension and recovery as well as during 5% CO2 inhalation. The findings showed that patients with OSA have decreased CBFV at baseline compared to controls (8±3 vs. 55±2 cm/s; P<0.05, respectively) and delayed cerebrovascular compensatory response to changes in blood pressure (CBFV: 0.06±0.02 vs.
0.20±0.06 cm∙s-2∙mmHg-1; P<0.05, figure 1). These perturbations may increase the risk of cerebral ischemia during obstructive apnea.
Figure 1: Rate of change of vascular conductance in response to orthostatic hypotension as a measure of cerebral autoregulation. The OSA patients (B) had significantly lower compensatory rate (the slope of CBFV/MAP/time) (P<0.05) and longer time course than the control (A).
Hypercoagulability and inflammation: Another suggested mechanism relates to the hypercoagulability and increased platelet aggregation related to OSA, which in turn increase risk of blood vessels’ blockage. This mechanism was recently demonstrated by a group of researchers from the Israeli Soroka Clinical Research Center5. 43 patients underwent a nocturnal respiratory assessment during the first 48 hours after stroke symptoms onset. In addition, Serum samples were obtained from all the study participants at the first morning after their admission, in order to track the concentration of some proinflamatory and procoagulant factors. Almost 90% of the patients had SDB (AHI>5) with 51% diagnosed with OSA (AHI ≥15), strengthening previous findings of high prevalence of SDB in patients with stroke. As the mechanism predicted, AHI was found to be correlated with indicators of inflammation and coagulability: IL-6 (ρ=0.37, P=0.02) and PAI-1 (ρ=0.31, P=0.07). PAI-1 was negatively correlated with a saturation nadir (ρ=−0.47, P=0.005) and positively correlated with a desaturation index (ρ=0.41, P=0.02). PAI-1 (pg/mL) was significantly higher in patients with an AHI≥15; mean of 176.64±74.52 versus 98.48±52.58 pg/mL, P=0.003 (Figure 2A). IL-6 (pg/mL, 6.64±5.27 versus 3.14±2.05, P=0.006, Figure 2B) and TNF (pg/mL, 6.39±5.00 versus 3.57±1.87, P=0.022, Figure 2C) were similar.
Figure 2: A, Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) levels stratified by apnoea hyponoea index (AHI). PAI-1 concentration (pg/mL) was significantly higher in serum drawn from patients with AHI≥15 than in patients with AHI<15. B, Interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels stratified by AHI. IL-6 concentration (pg/mL) was significantly higher in serum drawn from patients with AHI≥15. C, Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α levels stratified by AHI. TNF concentration (pg/mL) was significantly higher in serum drawn from patients with AHI≥15. Horizontal lines represent median values; the upper and lower box limits indicate the 25th and 75th percentile; whiskers represent the 10th and 90th percentiles.
The clinical importance of the last described study goes beyond the mechanism demonstration – it was the first time the respiratory assessment in stroke patients was evaluated using WatchPAT. Since WatchPAT technology is easily used as a bed-side measure in the acute post stroke period and enables rapid diagnosis and therapeutic recommendations, it’s ideal for improvement of secondary prevention.
WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Efrat Magidov
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is defined as an “unexpected natural death from a cardiac cause within a short time period, generally ≤1 hour from the onset of symptoms, in a person without any prior condition
that would appear fatal”1.
In most cases SCD results from a malfunction of the heart electrical system, causing a sudden loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest). Without organized electrical input to the heart, there is no consistent constriction of the ventricles which manifests in an irregular rhythm (arrhythmia) and an inadequate cardiac output. Loss of consciousness shortly follows due to lack of blood flow to the brain, and unless emergency treatment is given immediately death is inevitable.
Although SCD is one of the largest causes of natural death, accounting for up to 450,000 deaths annually in the US2, strategies for risk stratification and prevention are still far from ideal. This is mainly due to the fact that SCD mostly occurs in people without any diagnosed cardiac problems, and thus an adequate characterization of risk factors is highly essential.
Such risk factor, that was poorly identified until recently, is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
The biological plausibility for OSA as a risk factor for arrhythmogenesis stems from its interventions with all three mechanisms of arrhythmias:
In line with such important observations on the potential relationship between these two phenomena, a growing number of studies is trying to assess risk of SCD in OSA patients. One such attempt, and perhaps the most extensive one, was led by Dr. Virend Somers, the director of the Cardiovascular Facility and the Sleep Facility within Mayo Clinic’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science in Rochester, Minnesota.
In this 15 years controlled longitudinal study, 10,701 adults with suspected sleep disordered breathing admitted to the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center for a full night evaluation, the polysomnography over-night test. The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was calculated as the number of apneas/hypopneas per hour of sleep, and OSA diagnosis was established for an AHI 5 in accordance with AASM criteria.
The collection of follow-up data occurred up to 15 years (mean 5.3 years) from data of polysomnography to the date of SCD, resuscitated SCD, death from other causes or last follow-up. SCD was established when the cause of death was sudden cardiac death, (fatal) cardiac dysrhythmia, (fatal) cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, cardiorespiratory arrest; or coronary heart disease or myocardial infarction when the time interval from symptoms to death was specified ≤ 1 hour. Overall, 142 patients had resuscitated or had a fatal SCD, representing an annual rate of 0.27% for the study population.
In accordance with the researchers’ hypothesis, the presence of OSA predicted incident SCD and the magnitude of risk (hazard rate, HR) was predicted by multiple parameters that characterize OSA severity, including the AHI and nocturnal hypoxemia (AHI>20: HR 1.60; mean O2sat<93%: HR 2.93; lowest O2sat<78%: HR 2.60, all p<0.0001, Figure 1).
These findings are in line with previous studies demonstrating a two-to-fourfold greater risk of abnormal heart rhythms in people with OSA than people without OSA3-4. This risk had been shown to disappear completely in patients with treated OSA5. Taken together these findings stretch the importance of OSA diagnosis and treatment in SCD risk reduction.
WatchPAT, Home Sleep Apnea Test device, is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis. You may learn more about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices in www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
By Melih Alvo
Afib effects 6M lives1 in US and each year ~350.000 patients undergo ablation procedure to treat this condition. Intracardiac AFib ablation is an invasive cardiac procedure, carrying some significant risk for complications, in particular these associated with the transeptal puncture and esophageal fistulas and it is associated with significant cost to the healthcare system and the patient. Unfortunately about 50% of AFIB patient that undergo their first ablation procedure experience reoccurrence of Afib2 within one year. There are multiple thoughts on the underlaying reasons for this big variability in outcome with much dialog and efforts focusing on the procedure itself. Recently, new data published have suggested one of the gaps may not be in the ablation lines but with another condition -sleep apnea and the implications of it on the heart tissue and physiology.
Recently accelerated number of new clinical studies shows the effect of sleep apnea on Afib recurrence. On March 2017 the American College of Cardiology invited a review paper discussing the evidence demonstrating the causality relationships of sleep apnea driving higher AFIB burden. The below illustration is a recreation of similar diagram featured in this publication:
In light of all these information’s, Dr. Elad Anter from Boston Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical Institute, recentlypublished yet another clinical study which may change the EPs approach to
In this multi-center prospective randomized study 86 patients with Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation defined under two groups; group one of 43 patients with diagnosed OSA and group two, 43 patients without OSA. Diagnosis was done both with traditional means and with the novel WatchPAT home sleep test technology. All patients undergo comprehensive mapping of their atrial substrate, PV trigger identification and PV Isolation and non-PV trigger mapping and ablation. In addition there were retrospective 2 control groups one without OSA and one with moderate OSA. Both of those groups underwent PVI alone without mapping and ablation of Non-PV triggers.
Findings of the study were amazing. After PV isolation, patients with OSA had significant increased incidence of clinically relevant additional Non PV triggers (4.8% vs. 11.6%; P=0.003) and patients with OSA who only underwent PV isolation without ablating non-PV triggers had increased risk of arrhythmia recurrence (83.7% vs. 64.0%; P=0.003). Also 1 year arrhythmia-free survival was similar between patients with and without OSA that undergo both PVI and non-PV triggers ablation (83.7% vs 81.4%; P=0.59)4
As conclusion, OSA is associated with structural and functional remodeling and increased incidence of non-PV triggers. Eliminating these triggers will improve arrhythmia free survival. In other words, patients with OSA have higher chance to have non-PV triggers4 and therefore require different approach to AF ablation. Knowing the patients OSA status prior to the ablation process become critical piece of information that may help to define the right ablation strategy.
In below link you may see the full article.
The WatchPAT Home Sleep Apnea monitor is an easy to use, effective and accurate tool for OSA diagnosis in AFib patients. Contact Us for more information about WatchPAT and our comprehensive “Total Sleep Solution” for Cardiology practices. www.cardiosleepsolutions.com
1 – Source: Seet & Chung, Anestsiology Clin 2010
2 – Effect of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment on Atrial Fibrillation Recurrence
3 – Atrial substrate and triggers of paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea
By Gilad Glick
Cardiologists have always been early adopters of home-based and telemedicine applications and telehealth tools. For example, the Holter monitor that gathered data on the heart rhythms of cardiac patients over an extended period of time from their homes was one of the earliest instances of telehealth. Consequently, cardiologists are already accustomed to remotely monitoring their patients through implantable cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators that continuously collect and transmit data back to clinicians together with their main tasks of keeping the heart beating.
Alongside the popularity of telemedicine for cardiac patients lies the rising awareness of the link between Sleep apnea and heart disease. With concern growing for the effects of sleep apnea on patients’ cardiovascular risk and cardiac disease progression, home sleep testing with a sleep apnea home test device is the latest ambulatory tool in the cardiologist’s arsenal.
The drawbacks of in-lab sleep testing
In-lab comprehensive sleep tests, also called polysomnography or PSG, was the first breakthrough in the diagnosis of sleep disorders. The first sleep clinic was set up at Stanford University in 1970; today, over 2,500 sleep centers are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) to carry out sleep testing.
However PSG tests have their drawbacks:
The rise of home sleep tests
In December 2007, an American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) task force published guidelines on the use of unattended portable monitors (PMs) for the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in adults. The shift to Home sleep began in full force in March 2008, when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its proposed decision for modification of National Coverage Determination (NCD) policy 240.4 pertaining to coverage of continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) for an adult with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The proposed modification allowed for an initial 12 week period of CPAP coverage when OSA was diagnosed based on unattended home sleep testing (HST).
CPAP would be subsequently covered for those diagnosed with OSA who benefit from CPAP during the 12-week trial.
In March 2017 in the wake of recent technological advances, the AASM revised guidelines and accepted home sleep tests (HST) which measure peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT) as well as oximetry and actigraphy as “technically adequate” for the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in patients. Currently, WatchPat is the leading sleep apnea diagnosis device in a market place that uses this unique PAT technology.
Advantages of taking sleep tests at home
Besides overcoming the drawbacks of PSG, home sleep apnea tests have the following advantages:
Advantages for the clinicians
For the physician, an HSAT can be administered quickly and at times even right at the point care in the cardiology office and delivers results within a day or two. In this way, a cardiac patient can be diagnosed with OSA and begin treatment immediately, rather than watching their heart disease get worse while they wait for an in-lab sleep test.
The PSG can still be conducted and used for more detailed information when it is needed as a secondary comprehensive investigation.
Why is WatchPAT ideal for cardiologists?
WatchPAT®️ home sleep test is an ideal solution for cardiologists who focus on improving outcomes and their patients’ health-related quality of life, to expand their service portfolio to include the speedy diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. WatchPATTM combines the simplicity of pulse oximetry together with the accuracy of PSG and the cost-effectiveness of sleep apnea diagnosis at home.
As Prof. Andrea Natale from Austin mentioned in the 2016 HRS symposium “In the past, I used to convince the patient to do a sleep study. Many of them did not do it. Now they come to our office, they see the flyer about sleep apnea, they ask me to take the test because the test is so easy. Clearly, there’s benefit in the ease of the device to reach diagnosis”.
Dr. Randy Lieberman from Detroit was quoted saying that “Once we explain to the patients that identification of the sleep apnea can lead to a better quality of life or potentially better management of their cardiovascular disease component, then the question is; What kind of a sleep study? Patients are very reluctant to accept the information from an overnight sleep study outside their house. They tell us, they do not believe the data because they were uncomfortable in their bed and they couldn’t sleep. When they have a home sleep study done their own bed where it is minimally invasive, with a minimum amount of home sleep study equipment, then they much more open to accepting the diagnosis and the treatment”.
As more medical tests are offered in the ambulatory settings, it’s easy for your patients to be tested more easily and keep on top of their health. home sleep study tests empower patients and improve quality of care, while on a macroeconomic level telemedicine and home testing makes care more accessible while cutting operational costs and waiting times.
By Gilad Glick
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is defined as a physiological event that happens when upper airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep. Mostly, as a result of collapsed soft tissue in the throat while lying on your back. This makes your diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. As the obstruction persists, significant negative pressure is developed in the inner space of the thorax. Breathing usually resumes when the sympathetic nerve system is activated, regaining control over the throat muscles and reopening the airways – ending up with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. You may not sleep well, but you probably won’t be aware that this is happening.
Since the heart is “sitting” on the diaphragm on the lower end and attached to the aorta and pulmonary veins in the upper part, this negative intra-thoracic pressure is causing the heart muscle to stretch mechanically, potentially causing micro scarring of the left atrial tissue which in turn promotes arrhythmogenic characteristics (in particular Atrial Fibrillation).
Given that a moderate to severe sleep apnea patients experience Sleep Apnea events between 15 and 60 times an hour, or hundreds of times a night – the accumulated damage can be significant.
As described above, most sleep apnea events end with a surge of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nerve system. It is also known that the heart electrical system is tightly connected and to some degree regulated by this exact same system. Therefore, it is assumed that the load sleep apnea is imposing on the system has a profound impact on the promotion of irregular electrical activation patterns or arrhythmias.
There are serious negative consequences of repetitive oxygen desaturations, also known as Intermittent hypoxia, occurring during Sleep Apnea and affecting the entire cardiovascular system.
“The two most significant are the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inducing oxidative stress (OS). ROS can damage biomolecules, alter cellular functions and function as signaling molecules in physiological as well as in pathophysiological conditions. Consequently, they promote inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular morbidity. Oxidative stress is also a crucial component in obesity, sympathetic activation and metabolic disorders such as hypertension, dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes/insulin resistance, which aggregate with OSAHS.”
Another correlation was found between the Apnea/Hypopnea Index (AHI) severity, and Lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation , and impaired endothelial function which is a pivotal factor in vascular pathogenesis, which is known to be adversely affected due to the promotion of oxidative stress and inflammation, resulting in educed Nitric Oxide, (NO) availability and thus diminishing its vital vascular repair capacity .
To learn more about how EPs and cardiologists address sleep apnea in their cardiac care pathway to improve outcomes, quality of life and reduce AFib recurrence – read the article “How Electrophysiologists Reduce AFib Recurrence by Addressing Sleep Apnea”
To learn more about how our Cardio-Sleep customized solutions can help you address Sleep Apnea as part of your cardiac care workflow, while maintaining a positive patient experience and minimal workload on your staff – contact us here.
 . Hopps et al, Lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation are related to the severity of OSAS. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2014; 18: 3773-3778
 Oxidative Stress, and Repair Capacity of the Vascular Endothelium in Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Jelic S, Padeletti M, Kawut SM, Christopher Higgins C, Canfield SM, Onat D, Paolo C. Colombo PC, Basner RC, Factor P, and LeJemtel TH. Circulation. 2008 April 29; 117(17): 2270–2278.
By – Gilad Glick
According to latest CDC data, 1 in 3 American adults suffers from hypertension, and only about 54% have their condition under control. This is surprising, given the extensive research on Hypertension as a cardiovascular risk factor and the wide variety of hypertensive drugs available. Patients also have numerous home BP measurement devices they can use. Despite all this, cardiologists and primary care providers still struggle with drug-resistant hypertension or simply badly controlled blood pressure.
Recently the AHA launched a major initiative called TargetBP committed to reducing the number of Americans with uncontrolled blood pressure. TargetBP focuses on 3 key areas with M.A.P framework: M-Measurement – accurate measurement every time; A- Action taken rapidly to address high readings; and P – Partnering with patients, families and communities to promote self-management. The program uses latest science in blood pressure control and has already shown promising results.
There are simple actions you can take today to improve the way hypertension is managed and how patients self-manage their condition and they both can be done at home: (1) Get blood pressure measured at home and (2) control for Sleep Apnea
The American Heart Association recommends home monitoring for all hypertensive patients to help healthcare providers determine whether treatments are effective. And accurate measurement is at the heart of TargetBP.
The advantages of blood pressure home monitoring are known. Self-tracking of blood pressure helps empower patients to take ownership of their treatment. Clinically, a single reading at the doctor’s office is not enough, as blood pressure fluctuates and one measurement is not enough to ascertain patient’s response to medication. “White-coat” syndrome leading to higher readings at the doctor’s office is another reason to add home monitoring, where the patient is more relaxed.
This is the reason why many cardiologists now encourage patients to bring their automated blood pressure devices to their clinic visits once or even twice to measure their accuracy against the clinic-standard manual measurement. While they do this, patients learn how to accurately use the device.
TargetBP prepared a set of educational materials to help clinicians communicate with their patients and teach them about proper BP measurement and management:
Other TargetBP resources for patients can be found here.
Sleep Apnea is a major comorbidity to hypertension. In fact, sleep apnea was found in 83% of adults with drug-resistant hypertension.
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Hypertension in 2014 suggests that untreated sleep apnea may be a major factor in why medications appear to be less effective in reducing high blood pressure in some people. Further, the study shows that CPAP therapy may be the key to helping those with difficult to treat hypertension get their blood pressure under control.
Already in 2008, Prof. VK Somers and colleagues published the AHA/ACCF scientific statement, Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular disease. This statement was published by the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research Professional Education Committee, Council on Clinical Cardiology, Stroke Council, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing, in collaboration with NIH.
In this statement, authors review the evidence related to Sleep Apnea and CVD and proposed to treat OSA as an independent risk factor for the development of essential hypertension, since it can precede and predict the onset of hypertension (as demonstrated in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, which noted a consistent OSA-BP dose-response relationship, even after controlling for age, sex, BMI, and antihypertensive medications).6
Authors also noted that the weight of evidence has led the most recent Joint National Committee on the Detection and Management of Hypertension to identify OSA as an important identifiable cause of hypertension. 6
Also in 2008, AHA’s scientific statement: Resistant Hypertension: Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment, listed Obstructive sleep apnea as a common secondary cause of resistant hypertension. It also recommended to screen for obstructive sleep apnea as a first step in screening for secondary causes of resistant hypertension. “Obstructive sleep apnea should be treated if present” according to statement. Treatment by CPAP is recommended, with the largest benefit in patients with severe sleep apnea and in patients already receiving antihypertensive treatment.
You can easily identify patients at risk for sleep apnea with basic STOP-BANG questionnaire and can prescribe a home sleep test or an in-lab study when necessary. It’s also very easy to use our HIPAA-compliant Cloud-PAT platform to share the report with a sleep specialist or pulmonologist and get the interpretation.
Our simple screening methods can be easily integrated into any cardiac care pathway. Watch Prof. David Vorchheimer talk about his experience in successfully implementing CardioSleepSolutions in the cardiology clinics he manages.
We have tailored our solutions to suit all cardiologists and clinics of all sizes.
Contact us to arrange a discussion with one of our users or reps.
And just as a patient easily measures blood pressure at home, our WatchPAT home sleep test is one of the easiest most convenient sleep apnea tests on the market, while providing excellent clinically-validated data.
 Merai R, Siegel C, Rakotz M, Basch P, Wright J, Wong B; DHSc., Thorpe P. CDC Grand Rounds: A Public Health Approach to Detect and Control Hypertension. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Nov18;65(45):1261-1264
 Yoon SS, Fryar CD, Carroll MD. Hypertension Prevalence and Control Among Adults: United States, 2011-2014. NCHS data brief, no 220. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2015.
 Ringrose J et al; An Assessment of the Accuracy of Home Blood Pressure Monitors When Used in Device Owners, American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 30, Issue 7, 1 July 2017, Pages 683–689
 Iftikhar I et al, Effects of continuous positive airway pressure on blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea: a meta-analysis, Journal of Hypertension: December 2014 – Volume 32 – Issue 12 – p 2341–2350
 Somers VK et al. Sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease: an American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research Professional Education Committee, Council on Clinical Cardiology, Stroke Council, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing. Circulation. 2008;118:1080–1111.
 Calhoun et al, Resistant Hypertension: Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Professional Education Committee of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research. Hypertension. 2008;51:1403-1419
By Gilad Glick
To some it may come as a surprise that SDB (Sleep Disordered Breathing) or Sleep Apnea is common among AFIB patients, and that it has been found an independent major risk factor, significantly affecting outcomes.
However, leading electrophysiologists and cardiologists have already been increasingly aware of the link between Atrial Fibrillation and Sleep Apnea. Such clinicians seek to actively diagnose OSA and integrate effective screening tools to identify Sleep Apnea risk among their patients as part of their patient care pathway. In addition, the ESC and ACC have updated their AFib guidelines to include sleep apnea screening and treatment in consideration of accumulating evidence linking the two
Here’s a brief overview of the AFIB practice guidelines and evidence related to the link between sleep apnea and AFIB.
Clinical Practice Guidelines
According to the 2016 ESC guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation interrogation for clinical signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in all AFib patients is a Class IIa, level B recommendation. Further, once OSA is diagnosed, treatment should be optimized to improve AF treatment results in appropriate patients (Class IIa, level B).1
These guidelines have recently been cited by the ACC.
The Heart Rhythm Society also published a patient brochure to educate AFib patients about Sleep Apnea symptoms and the importance of getting tested for sleep apnea and treating it to improve their overall health. You can find it here2.
The link between Atrial Fibrillation and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a known risk factor associated with both onset and recurrence of AFib after therapy. Sleep Apnea is now established as an independent predictor of AFib with a HR of 2.18.8
How common is Sleep Apnea among AFib patients?
In the general population, OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) affects approximately 24% of men and 9% of women, between 30 and 60 years of age. The prevalence of Sleep Apnea rises with age. Up to 80% remain undiagnosed.2,3
Among AFib patients, the comorbidity of Sleep Apnea is estimated at about 49%.4,5 A recent study in Sweden showed a prevalence of over 80 percent of sleep apnea among patients treated for atrial fibrillation.
Mehra and colleagues showed, with a large, prospective, community-based cohort, that individuals with Sleep apnea had 4 times the odds to develop AFib as those without SDB (OR 4.02, 95% CI 1.03- 15.74) after adjustment for age, sex, BMI and prevalent coronary heart disease.6
How does Sleep Apnea and its management affect AFib outcomes?
A major challenge for electrophysiologists nowadays is a persistently high 1-year AFib recurrence despite treatment by cardioversion, catheter ablation or drugs. Often a repeat ablation is necessary to treat AFib efficiently, and AFib may still recur despite these additional interventions. Electrophysiologists were concerned about a group of patients who seemed refractory to maintenance of sinus rhythm despite aggressive therapy.
In recent years, multiple published studies linked untreated sleep apnea with substantial increases in the rate of AFIB recurrence – practically telling us that the common 20% – 40% recurrence rate has two groups: those with Sleep Apnea, about half the patients, with a much higher rate of AFib recurrence and the other half, without Sleep Apnea, with lower rate.
Moreover, when patients with confirmed OSA complied properly with CPAP Sleep Apnea treatment, ablation success rates improved to match those among non-apnea sufferers in all AFib types.
Sleep Apnea Treatment – what is the effect on AFib outcomes?
The first to show that treatment of Sleep Apnea correlated with a lower incidence of atrial fibrillation recurrence was the team led by Dr. Virend Somers4.
As far back as 2010, a group led by Dr. Andrea Natale, showed that Sleep Apnea was an independent predictor for PVAI failure, and that treatment with CPAP improved PVAI success rates. Patients not treated with CPAP in addition to having higher prevalence of non-PV triggers were 8 times more likely to fail ablation.7
A broader landmark study was published by Dr. Fein, Dr. Anter and colleagues. These authors found that AFib-free survival rate among patients with CPAP-treated OSA was similar to a group of patients without OSA (71.9% vs. 36.7%; p = 0.01). AFib recurrence following PVI in CPAP-nonuser patients was significantly higher (HR: 2.4, p < 0.02) and similar to that of OSA patients managed medically without ablation (HR: 2.1, p = 0.68). Summary of the study conclusions is below.8
The authors concluded that CPAP is an important therapy in OSA patients undergoing RF Ablation that improves arrhythmia free survival. RF Ablation offers limited value to OSA patients not treated with CPAP.8
A recent study from Duke University found that patients who underwent focal impulse and rotor modulation (FIRM) ablation and also suffered from OSA, exhibited increased rotor prevalence, driven predominantly by an increase in RA rotors. CPAP therapy was associated with fewer RA rotors.10
Finally, a meta-analysis conducted by Dr. Shukla, Dr. Chinitz and colleagues from the Charney Division of Cardiology, New York University Langone Medical Center in NYC, found that the association between CPAP and reduced AF recurrence remained the same whether treated medically or with catheter ablation.9
CPAP use in patients with OSA was associated with a reduced relative risk of AF recurrence in comparison to non-users – with a 42% relative risk reduction and a very highly significant statistical data. Authors noted that the effect remained consistent and similar across patient populations irrespective of whether they undergo PVI.9
Clinical practice: Implementing AFib guidelines related to Sleep
Cardiologists are becoming increasingly aware of the possibility of the benefits of home sleep testing and cloud technology to connect with sleep specialists and pulmonologists and conduct wide screening for undiagnosed sleep breathing disorders, refer for treatment and follow up on therapy and CVD outcomes.
Given the strength of evidence, it’s no surprise that electrophysiologists were the first to take practical steps in integrating sleep medicine in cardiology care.
Since we started offering the WatchPAT home sleep test to cardiology departments around the world, we hear from physicians that they no longer convince their patients to take the test. The patients are eager to get tested at home as the process is so simple and cardiologists explain how essential it is to improve outcomes and AFib recurrence. The WatchPAT home sleep test is as easy for patients to use as a home holter monitor and clinicians can view the report via the cloud and share with pulmonologists to obtain interpretation.
And because cardiologists were anxious to verify that patients comply with treatment and linked non-usage to recurrence of AFib, we started connecting them with leading service and CPAP providers. We now offer customized solutions to all types of institutions or clinics, depending on size, workflow and physician needs.
To learn more about sleep and arrhythmias – we recommend this video series of the scientific symposium we sponsored at HRS in 2016.
I invite you to join learn more about Cardio Sleep solutions here.
1 2016 ESC Guidelines for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation Developed in Collaboration With EACTS. Eur Heart J 2016; Aug 27:[Epub ahead of print]
3 Young et al. The Occurrence of Sleep-Disordered Breathing among Middle-Aged Adults. N Engl J Med 1993; 328:1230-1235
4 Gami AS, Pressman G, Caples SM, et al. Association of atrial fibrillation and obstructive sleep apnea. Circulation 2004; 110:364–7. [PubMed]
5 Seet & Chung, Anestsiology Clin 2010
6 Mehra R, Sleep apnea ABCs: airway, breathing, circulation, Cleve Clin J Med 2014;81:479–89 | Pubmed
7 Dimpi Patel el al “Safety and Efficacy of Pulmonary Vein Antral Isolation in Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnea” Circulation Arrhy and Electro, 2010
8 Fein AS, Anter E., et al. Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation recurrence after catheter ablation. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013; 62:300-305. | Pubmed
9 Shukla et al. CPAP Use on Recurrence of AF in Patients with OSA JACC: CLINICAL ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY VOL. 1, NO. 1-2, 2015
10 Friedman et al, Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with increased rotor burden in patients undergoing focal impulse and rotor modification guided atrial fibrillation ablation, Europace, eux248, https://doi.org/10.1093/europace/eux248
By Gilad Glick | September 6, 2017
Why has sleep breathing management not integrated into cardiology care pathway?
In my previous article, I briefly mentioned the increased awareness and the broad acceptance of the role of Sleep Apnea in Cardiac disease and the main studies and scientific statements published by the ESC, AHA and ACC which were the driver behind the American Sleep Academy “Sleep Apnea Hurts Hearts” campaign.
The question remaining is:
If the link between Sleep Apnea and several main cardiovascular diseases such as Atrial Fibrillation and Hypertension has been broadly accepted – why DO most heart patients remain undiagnosed and majority of cardiologist are not integrating this factor into their care pathway?
There are two main barriers that we hear about from practitioners:
The first obstacle is awareness of cardiologists and their patients about how prevalent Sleep Apnea is among cardiology patients and the fact that most will not be visually detected. Most cardiologists “eyeball” patients to assess obvious signs of sleep apnea such as a thick neck, visually high BMI, chronically blocked nose etc.
This results in significant underdiagnosis of sleep apnea as demonstrated in a recent study conducted in Montefiore medical center (New York) by Dr. Wharton and Dr. Zaremski. Their conclusion was that systematic and broad screening is recommended in cardiology clinics, with 84% of their patients screened positive for sleep apnea, while BMI was a poor predictor of screening results.
The second obstacle lies in the dynamics of referring a patient to a sleep medicine physician: to start with, cardiology patients are pre-occupied with their heart condition, and do not understand the link between their Sleep Apnea and their heart. If not given a motivational explanation by the cardiologist or pressed hard to show up at the sleep doctor – most will not make this extra effort this requires.
Furthermore, when patients finally overcome this obstacle and wish to take a sleep study, they encounter the lack of sufficient sleep certified physicians, resulting in inconvenient waiting times, sometimes reaching months combined with geographical accessibility limitations driven by the tendency to diagnose simple OSA with full in-lab polysomnography (PSG) as first line procedure which has a host of barriers imbedded in it.
For example, more and more medical insurers will require Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) before authorizing PSG. Sleep physicians, preferring PSG – require the patient to undergo 2 procedures or debate the insurance. Not an insignificant portion of the patients refuse to undergo in-lab PSG because they are worried about being hospitalized or fear the financial impact of the co-pay. Sleeping at a sleep lab is also not an experience people look forward to.
Harnessing the simplicity of home sleep tests
As a result, the integration between cardiology and sleep needs to be done differently. Home sleep tests, which revolutionized sleep medicine and made sleep studies available to all patients, whether they lived far, had a disability or simply liked sleeping in their own beds – has the promise to enable the cardiology patient population to easily manage their sleep. By either moving the point of dispatch to Cardiology or even to direct shipment – just like Amazon did with retail.
How do we solve these challenges?
Recently Itamar Medical launched the Total Sleep Solution program that has all the components necessary to successfully integrate Sleep medicine into Cardiology patient care. It has:
(A) Cardiology oriented screening tools – combined with patient education materials to achieve efficient accessibility for all patients while maintaining a seamless and pleasant patient experience.
(B) Unique Home Sleep Testing – Enabling Technology with the WatchPAT home sleep test which offered unparalleled simple user experience, requiring only a finger sensor and a watch instead of all the cumbersome home sleep tests available. It’s FDA cleared, listed as technically adequate in the AASM guidelines for HSATs and fully reimbursed*
(C) Remote sleep expert interpretation – Cloud based technology that enables immediate transmission of the test report to a sleep specialist for interpretation and diagnosis, because we at Itamar understand cardiologists are not interested in practicing sleep or pulmonary medicine and
(D) Connection to sleep apnea management service providers of high quality that understand the standards Cardiologists are expecting and help ensure patient compliance and adherence.
To learn more about our comprehensive customizable solutions, you may always contact your local Itamar Sales Representative or leave your details here:
 Kapur VK, et al. 2017 “Clinical practice guideline for diagnostic testing for adult obstructive sleep apnea: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline.”J Clin Sleep Med. 13(3):479–504.
*Please verify with your insurance mix as local policies varies
By Gilad Glick | August 16, 2017
February was Heart month, and the national Healthy Sleep Project launched the “Sleep Apnea Hurts Hearts” campaign in collaboration with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS). The campaign intended to raise awareness and urge individuals with symptoms of Sleep Apnea to talk to a doctor about their risk.
Cardiovascular comorbidities of Sleep Apnea have been known for a long time. Sleep apnea affects about 50% of heart patients on average (higher for certain conditions)1. Sleep Apnea has been linked to drug-resistant hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease, Heart Failure, Diabetes, Atrial Fibrillation and other Arrhythmias, Stroke and even depression. However, the CVD outcomes following proper Sleep Apnea treatment have only been studied in the past 5-10 years. And, the initial results are significant.
Yet, systematic screening and integration of Sleep Apnea management into the continuum of cardiac care is just at its infancy.
However, recently we have seen a clear momentum from the cardiac establishment endorsing this need. In September 2016, The American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement on sleep duration and quality, which stated that moderate and severe Sleep Apnea were associated with a substantially higher risk of cardiovascular disease2. The authors of the AHA statement recommended that a public health campaign addressing sleep behavior should be launched to promote ideal cardiac health.
At the same time, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) published revised guidelines for the management of Atrial Fibrillation including a clear call that “Interrogation for clinical signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea should be considered in all AF patients. Obstructive sleep apnea treatment should be optimized to reduce AF recurrences and improve AF treatment results”.3
Right after that, the ACC came out during their annual meeting in March 2017 with a special editorial Sleep Apnea: Types, Mechanisms, and Clinical Cardiovascular Consequences calling all Cardiologists to consider Sleep Apnea as modifiable cardiovascular risk factor4.
Our vision with Cardio Sleep Solutions
Our vision at Itamar Medical is to be the world leader in providing complete Sleep solutions to all Cardiologists and their heart patients. We are passionate about the integration of Sleep medicine in cardiology care pathway by providing simple, timely and tailored solutions, that actually work.
As more and more cardiologists realize the importance of sleep to their success, and look for ways to improve outcomes, patient experience and quality of care, I invite you to join us and test our Cardio-Sleep Solutions to improve not only your patients’ heart health, but also every aspect of their lives and overall wellbeing.
1 Seet & Chung, Anesthesiology Clinical 2010
2 St.-Onge et al, Sleep Duration and Quality: Impact on Lifestyle Behaviors and Cardiometabolic Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Circulation Sept 2016
3 Benussi et al, 2016 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with EACTS, European Heart Journal (2016) 37, 2893–2962
4 Javaheri et al, Sleep Apnea: Types, Mechanisms, and Clinical Cardiovascular Consequences J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69(7):841-858.