|Waldemar Riefkohl, M.D.|
PINEHURST – A sleep disorders study usually involves a night in a specialized medical facility where technicians can monitor patients attached to sensors for respiration, nasal flow, pulse oxygen levels and snoring.
For some patients, especially those who are obese, elderly or home-bound due to chronic health problems, an overnight stay in an unfamiliar environment is difficult or not an option.
Some of these patients have an alternative now that the FirstHealth Sleep Disorders Centers at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham and Montgomery Memorial Hospital in Troy offer in-home studies that can streamline the process.
“This is a very simple test that is appropriate for patients who are suspected of a high probability of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),” says ear, nose and throat specialist Waldemar Riefkohl, M.D. “A ‘perfect’ candidate would be someone who is overweight, snores and complains of being tired during the day, but doesn’t have other significant health problems. A home study would be a good option for this person.”
Home studies are not appropriate for patients with medical conditions that can affect the accuracy of the test (including moderate to severe pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure or neuromuscular disease). They are also not appropriate for patients who are suspected of having sleep disorders other than OSA (such as central sleep apnea, periodic limb movement, insomnia and narcolepsy).
The in-home device records respiratory nasal airflow, snoring, blood oxygen saturation, pulse and respiratory effort as the patient sleeps in the comfort of his/her own bed. The information that is produced is then sent to a specially trained physician for review.
The device is easy to use: The patient receives instructions on how to use the unit and just puts it on at bedtime. Each device consists of three items: a belt that is worn around the waist, a thin tube to be placed in the nose and a pulse oxygen attachment that goes on a finger.
“It’s very simple and comfortable, and should not interfere with sleep,” Dr. Riefkohl says.
After the patient completes the test, the unit is returned to the sleep lab, the results are downloaded, and a report is prepared for the physician to review and then share with the patient. Depending on results, the patient may get a diagnosis of OSA, learn that he/she does not have OSA or be referred for additional testing.
“Patients who are found to have OSA or other abnormalities will have to come into the sleep lab for overnight testing,” Dr. Riefkohl says. “But those who don’t are spared the discomfort of an overnight lab stay and the significantly greater expense of an in-lab test.”
For more information on FirstHealth's Sleep Disorders Centers or the availability of the in-home sleep study, contact the Sleep Disorders Center in your community: (910) 715-3338 in Pinehurst, (910) 417-3952 in Rockingham and (910) 571-5600 in Troy.