The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) today posted a draft recommendation statement on screening for obstructive sleep apnea. The task force determined there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against screening for sleep apnea. The balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined, they say.
This recommendation applies to adults, ages 18 and older, who do not have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. It also applies to adults with unrecognized symptoms of sleep apnea, which includes people who are not aware of their symptoms or who do not report symptoms to their healthcare professional. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, and choking or gasping during sleep.
“Having sleep apnea negatively affects quality of life and is linked to health issues such as heart disease and strokes,” says task force member Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, in a release. “Unfortunately, there’s limited evidence on whether screening people who do not have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea leads to improved health, so we are calling for more research.”
People at increased risk for sleep apnea include men, postmenopausal women, older adults ages 40–70, people with a higher BMI, and people with a physical irregularity that could affect their upper airway and breathing. Black, Native American, and Latino populations have higher rates of sleep apnea compared to White people, which is thought to be related to higher rates of obesity and other health issues in these groups.
“Most people don’t discuss sleep apnea symptoms with their primary care clinician,” says task force member Martha Kubik, PhD, RN, in a release. “Because the evidence is unclear on whether screening for sleep apnea in people without signs or symptoms is beneficial, healthcare professionals should use their judgment to guide their decision to screen.”
The Task Force’s draft recommendation statement and draft evidence review have been posted for public comment. Comments can be submitted from March 29, 2022, to April 25, 2022, at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm.
When final, this recommendation will replace the 2017 USPSTF recommendation on screening for obstructive sleep apnea. In 2017, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for OSA in asymptomatic adults. The current draft recommendation statement is consistent with the statement from 2017.
The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.