The changing profile of obstructive sleep apnea: long term trends in characteristics of patients presenting for diagnostic polysomnography

Ross J. Marriott, Nigel McArdle, Bhajan Singh, Stuart King, Ivan Ling, Kim Ward, Ellie Darcey, Daniela Bond-Smith, Sutapa Mukherjee, Lyle J. Palmer, David Hillman, Gemma Cadby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: We aimed to analyze long-term trends in characteristics of patients undergoing diagnostic polysomnography (PSG) and subsequently diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to inform delivery of sleep services. Material and Methods: We studied 24,510 consecutive patients undergoing PSG at a tertiary-care sleep service between 1989 and 2013. OSA was defined by an apnea hypopnea index (AHI)≥ 5 events/hour. Changes to hypopnea definition and flow sensing techniques in 2002 created two distinct AHI scoring periods: American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA) 1989 - July 2002 and American Academy of Sleep Medicine (Chicago) from August 2002. Results: Over 23.5 years there was a steady increase in proportion of females (15% to 45%), small increases in average age and BMI, and a small decline in socioeconomic status in the overall group. AHI varied between scoring periods both overall [ASDA 10.8/h (3.2-29.6), Chicago 24.3/h (11.8-48.1)] and in the large subgroup (80.7%) diagnosed with OSA [ASDA 20.7/h (10.6-44.1), Chicago 27.4/h (14.8-51.5)]. OSA diagnosis rates increased in the Chicago period (ASDA 66%, Chicago 91%). Increases in AHI and proportion diagnosed appeared better explained by changes in scoring methods than key OSA risk factors. Conclusion: Temporal increases in proportion of females and decreases in socioeconomic status of people undergoing PSG may reflect greater community awareness of sleep disorders. Temporal increases in age and obesity are consistent with secular trends. Changes in scoring methods have major impacts on OSA diagnosis and judgement of disease severity, with important implications for contemporary resourcing of sleep services and interpretation of historical OSA data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalSleep Science
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • BMI
  • Epidemiology
  • Obesity
  • OSA
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep disorders


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