Study objectives: The primary aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of positional obstructive sleep apnea using a functional definition. Positional sleep apnea was defined as a total apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) ≥ 5 with a > 50% reduction in the AHI between the supine and nonsupine postures, and an AHI that normalizes (AHI < 5) in the nonsupine posture. A secondary aim was to determine if positional sleep apnea can be diagnosed accurately during a split-night study.
Design: Retrospective chart review.
Setting: Two sleep centers in Buffalo, NY, one a Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System Sleep Center (VAWNY) and the other a freestanding ambulatory center (Associated Sleep Center [ASC]).
Patients: Three hundred twenty-six patients from the VAWNY, including 57 patients who underwent a split-night study and 242 patients from the ASC who underwent polysomnography.
Measurements: Patient characteristics and sleep study results.
Results: Positional sleep apnea was seen in 49 of 99 patients (49.5%) with mild sleep apnea (AHI, 5 to 15/h), 14 of 72 patients (19.4%) with moderate sleep apnea (AHI, 15 to 30/h), and 5 of 77 patients (6.5%) with severe sleep apnea (AHI > 30/h). Sufficient sleep (> 15 min) in both postures was not seen in 104 of 269 patients (38.7%) and 80 of 242 overnight studies (33.1%) at the VAWNY and ASC, respectively, and was not seen in 47 of 57 split-night studies (82.5%). The percentage of studies with insufficient sleep in both postures was significantly greater for split-night studies (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Positional sleep apnea is common particularly in patients with mild disease. Positional sleep apnea cannot usually be assessed during a split-night study.