Clinical polysomnography

Published on 09/05/2015 by admin

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Chapter 4 Clinical polysomnography


The field of sleep medicine has experienced an explosion of interest in recent years. This heightened focus on achieving an advanced understanding of sleep and its inherent pathologies is attributable, in large part, to significant improvement in the development of more suitable instrumentation. This, in turn, has led to more accurate measurement and comprehension of sleep processes and related parameters, although many questions regarding sleep mechanisms remain. The relative simplicity of instrumentation used by Hans Berger in the late 1920s to first describe the human electroencephalogram (EEG)1 has been eclipsed by technology implemented today at sleep centers around the world where not only the EEG is recorded during polysomno-graphy (PSG), but usually the electro-oculogram (EOG), electromyogram (EMG), electrocardiogram (ECG), respiratory effort, nasal/oral airflow, SaO2 levels, snoring, and body position with video monitoring are as well. In a much less standardized manner, additional parameters may be measured depending upon the clinical presentation of the patient and the technical capabilities of the individual sleep center. Thus, end tidal CO2 (ETCO2) may be measured in a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or the placement of an esophageal balloon may be considered in appropriate patients to clarify the diagnosis of upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) by measuring esophageal pressures during sleep. We have seen a gradual transformation from the traditional, pen-and-paper recording of sleep to the current, state-of-the-art, digital acquisition and reviewing of sleep (see Figs 4.14.4). As our knowledge of sleep and its pathologies is refined, the inexorable demand for further advancements concerning instrumentation becomes more acute, as is true in many other areas of health science in general. This chapter will serve to clarify the types of sleep studies used in the evaluation process of sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD), provide guidelines for their acquisition pre- and postoperatively, and present typical montages used during PSG with special attention paid to the measurement of nasal/oral airflow.


According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), when factors inclusive of sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios, and strength of evidence are analyzed, a categorization of four subtypes of sleep-monitoring procedures is the outcome.2 Type 1 is the gold standard attended in-laboratory PSG, while the other three include portable monitoring methods inclusive of Type 2 (comprehensive), Type 3 (modified portable sleep apnea testing or cardiorespiratory sleep study), and Type 4 (continuous single recording, such as ambulatory overnight pulse oximetry, or dual bioparameter recording). Type 4 monitoring devices are considered unacceptable by the AASM for making the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Type 2 and 3 devices may be helpful in an attended setting used for patients without significant comorbid conditions, and if manually scored by trained personnel. It has been noted that the Type 3 devices have a tendency to underestimate the severity of OSA secondary to the absence of EEG monitoring in that arousals are not scored.3 Furthermore, it is recommended by the AASM that symptomatic patients with negative portable studies undergo attended PSG for further clarification.2 According to AASM standards, a full night PSG is routinely indicated for the diagnosis of SRBDs and for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) titration in patients with a documented diagnosis of a SRBD for whom PAP is warranted. Such patients include those with a Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI) of at least 15 per hour of sleep regardless of their presenting symptomatology or those with a RDI of at least five per hour of sleep with excessive daytime sleepiness. Split-night PSGs (diagnostic segment followed by CPAP titration on the same night) are considered acceptable if the Apnea/Hypopnea Index (AHI) is at least 40 events per hour of sleep and is documented by means of at least 2 hours of diagnostic recording, or if the AHI is between 20 and 40 in the presence of repetitive lengthy obstructions and major desaturations. In addition, the CPAP titration must be carried out for more than 3 hours, and the PSG must document that CPAP eliminates the respiratory events during sleep, including REM sleep with the patient in the supine position.2

Excessive daytime somnolence is often part of the clinical presentation of patients with a SRBD. There are several means by which the degree of somnolence may be measured, both subjectively (e.g. Epworth Sleepiness Scale) and objectively. The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is a series of nap opportunities (usually four or five) scheduled 2 hours apart beginning 1.5–3 hours after the morning awakening following PSG, which are conducted under specified conditions using accepted protocols. Patients are asked to try to fall asleep during these nap opportunities. The procedures used to perform the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) are similar to those utilized for the MSLT with the exception that the patient is asked to remain awake under the same soporific conditions utilized for the MSLT. The MSLT is a validated objective measure of the patient’s ability or tendency to fall asleep while the MWT is a validated objective measure of the patient’s ability to remain awake under soporific conditions. Although closely related, these two procedures serve to define a patient’s sleepiness from different perspectives. The MSLT is not routinely indicated in the initial evaluation for a SRBD or in the assessment of change following treatment with nasal CPAP.4 However, the MWT may be used to assess an individual’s ability to remain awake if an inability to do so potentially constitutes a public or personal safety issue. Patients with a SRBD who are employed in occupations involving public transportation or safety may require assessment of their ability to remain awake. Although data regarding usefulness of the MSLT or the MWT are limited, using the MWT to assess ability to remain awake has been reported to have greater face validity than using the MSLT.4 However, the predictive value of either test for assessing accident risk and safety within the context of real- life circumstances is not well established. The assessment of the patient’s ability to remain awake and consequent safety risks should involve the integration of findings from the history, compliance with therapy, subjective rating scales, and in some cases, objective testing using the MWT.


Patients with some specific medical conditions deserve mention. In general, those with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, a history of stroke or transient ischemic attacks, significant tachyarrhythmias or bradyarrhythmias should be screened for signs and symptoms of a SRBD.2 If there is a reasonable suspicion of these conditions, then a PSG is warranted. Furthermore, the application of CPAP at least during the perioperative period in many cases is prudent.

The pediatric population also merits attention. Although most children with obstructive sleep apnea present with a history of snoring and evidence of some difficulty breathing during sleep, not all of them snore. Paradoxical breathing is often prominent secondary to their very compliant rib cages. The scoring of respiratory events in adults requires a duration of at least 10 seconds, while the standard in children has been defined by a period of at least two respiratory cycles.5 In children, these respiratory events may or may not be followed by EEG arousals. This often leads to fairly normal sleep architecture. The respiratory events occur predominantly in REM sleep. The ordering of PSG is indicated in neonates and infants when apnea of prematurity or of infancy is suspected, or following apparent life-threatening events (ALTEs). When severe gastroesophageal reflux is suspected, PSG is also indicated. The presence of a craniofacial congenital malformation involving the face, mouth, tongue, neck or chest, such as Treacher Collins syndrome or Pierre Robin syndrome, or following surgery on a child performed to correct these anatomical abnormalities, should also prompt a consideration for PSG. Other disorders which should urge the clinician to obtain PSG include suspected seizure disorders or any disorder which can cause hypotonia.6

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