Rutgers University researchers have developed a screening tool for detecting obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in epilepsy patients whose sleep disorders can augment their seizures.
OSA detection and treatment is known to improve seizure control in certain people with epilepsy.
The new electronic health record alert tool is designed to help neurologists in determining a patient’s requirement for a sleep study, which can establish the treatment needs.
Such treatment is expected to improve seizure control, minimise antiepileptic medications and reduce the risk of sudden death due to epilepsy.
Rutgers University Department of Neurosciences nurse practitioner Martha Mulvey said: “Sleep disorders are common among people living with epilepsy and are under-diagnosed.
“Seizures can often be triggered by low oxygen levels that occur during OSA. Sleep deprivation and the interruption of sleep can, therefore, increase seizure frequency.”
The new screening tool is embedded with 12 recognised risk factors, including snoring, choking or gasping in sleep, morning headaches, reduced memory and concentration, and dry mouth.
Patients with at least two risk factors are referred for a sleep study.
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School neurology professor Xue Ming said: “It was found that placing this mandatory alert for providers to screen for OSA in the EHR markedly increased the detection of at-risk epilepsy patients who should be referred for a sleep study.
“Such screening can lead to early detection and treatment, which will improve the quality of life of patients with epilepsy and OSA.”
Out of the total 405 patients who were screened with the new EHR alert, 33% were found to have at least two risk factors and were referred for a sleep study.
Amongst the 82 patients who completed a sleep study, 87% demonstrated at least mild sleep apnoea.