What is the role of overnight oximetry in the workup of childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Feb 13, 2019
  • Author: Mary E Cataletto, MD; Chief Editor: Denise Serebrisky, MD  more...
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Unattended home overnight oximetry has been proposed as a screening study. However, it may miss the child with significant obstructive sleep apnea who does not have marked episodes of oxygen desaturation.

Overnight pulse oximetry by itself is not adequate for establishing the diagnosis or excluding obstructive sleep apnea in children because it provides no information concerning sleep staging/sleep fragmentation or carbon dioxide.

The results of initial studies indicate that, although home audio tape recordings appear relatively insensitive, oximetry trend analysis with or without additional measures may provide a useful alternative in establishing the definitive cases that require intervention. However, despite high specificity, home oximetry has low sensitivity, and children with negative findings on studies still require complete nocturnal polysomnography.

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