Thorax 54:968-971 doi:10.1136/thx.54.11.968
  • Original article

Nocturnal oximetry for the diagnosis of the sleep apnoea hypopnoea syndrome: a method to reduce the number of polysomnographies?

  1. Eusebi Chiner,
  2. Jaime Signes-Costa,
  3. Juan Manuel Arriero,
  4. Juan Marco,
  5. Isabel Fuentes,
  6. Antonia Sergado
  1. Sección de Neumología, Hospital Universitario San Juan de Alicante, Carretera Alicante-Valencia s/n, 03550 San Juan de Alicante, Spain
  1. Dr E Chiner.
  • Received 8 April 1999
  • Revision requested 20 May 1999
  • Revised 2 June 1999
  • Accepted 5 July 1999


BACKGROUND Polysomnography (PSG) is currently the “gold standard” for the diagnosis of the sleep apnoea hypopnoea syndrome (SAHS). Nocturnal oximetry (NO) has been used with contradictory results. A prospective study was performed to determine the accuracy of NO as a diagnostic tool and to evaluate the reduction in the number of PSGs if the diagnosis of SAHS had been established by this method.

METHODS Two hundred and seventy five patients with a clinical suspicion of SAHS were admitted to undergo, in the same night, full PSG and NO. Desaturation was defined as a fall in the haemoglobin saturation level (Sao 2) to lower than 4% from the baseline level and an oxygen desaturation index per hour (ODI) was obtained in each patient with three cut off points: ⩾5 (ODI-5), ⩾10 (ODI-10), and ⩾15 (ODI-15).

RESULTS SAHS was diagnosed in 216 patients (194 men). After withdrawing patients with abnormal lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) lower than 80% predicted), sensitivity (SE), specificity (SP), positive and negative predictive values (PPV and NPV) of NO were: ODI-5 (80%, 89%, 97%, 48%); ODI-10 (71%, 93%, 97%, 42%); ODI-15 (63%, 96%, 99%, 38%). The accuracy for each ODI was 0.81, 0.75, and 0.70, respectively. If NO had been considered as a diagnostic tool and PSG had been performed only in patients with a negative NO (false negative and true negative) and those with a positive NO and abnormal pulmonary function tests, 135/275 (ODI-5), 156/275 (ODI-10), and 170/275 (ODI-15) PSGs would have been performed, a reduction of 140, 119, and 105, respectively.

CONCLUSION Nocturnal oximetry in patients with suspected SAHS and normal spirometric values permits the institution of therapeutic measures in most patients.