Home testing devices for sleep apnoea backed for NHS use

sleep apnoea
Peter Mason

Five home-testing devices for obstructive sleep apnoea hypopnoea syndrome (OSAHS), a potentially dangerous condition affecting 2.5 million adults in the UK, have been recommended for NHS use by NICE.

OSAHS is a sleep-disordered breathing condition with potentially serious long-term effects, which is most common in people who are overweight and affects approximately 5% of the UK population.

It results in repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep caused by narrowing and collapse of the airway and is associated with serious health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, all of which can shorten life expectancy.

The new devices recommended by NICE in its draft guidance can be used at home while sleeping, and are less invasive than alternatives that require cannulas to be inserted into the nose or formal instructions in a hospital setting.

At-home options respiratory polygraphy (RP) systems are currently available, but their use requires sleeping with a band around the chest and abdomen to monitor movement, a flow sensor in the nostrils, and a blood oxygen monitor clipped onto a finger. The complexity of these wired systems means they can be uncomfortable to use, affecting sleep and potentially skewing results, and can become detached during the night.

The five devices covered by the new guidance include two that are strapped to the wrist with sensors attached to the finger and chest – the WatchPat 300 and WatchPat ONE from Itamar Medical – which measure heart rate, body movement and position, snoring, and chest motion.

The AcuPebble SA100 from Acurable has a wireless sensor that attaches to the throat and records sound generated from physiological body processes, including respiratory and cardiac functions, while Nomics’ Brizzy is worn as a belt around the waist with a wired sensor on the chin and forehead to measure jaw movements associated with OSAHS.

Finally, the NightOwl device from Sisu Health uses a wireless sensor attached to the finger to detect symptoms using oxygen saturation, body movement, and pulse rate.

The hope is that NHS use of the devices could help the NHS identify more people with OSAHS, which is treatable with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, reduce waiting lists, and free up clinician time.

NICE’s appraisal committee also noted there would be a big advantage to the home-testing devices if they improved the detection of OSAHS in people with brown and black skin compared with currently used tests, although, it said that data isn’t yet available.

The draft guidance is open for public comment until 5th June and is due to be finalised by 11th September.

Photo by Peter Mason on Unsplash