Epilepsy Patients At Risk For Sleep Apnea Can Be Identified By New Screening Tool


People with epilepsy often have to deal with sleep disorders, and they can lead to increased seizures. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of those diseases. However, things might change for epilepsy patients with sleep disorders.

A new screening tool might be able to discover sleep apnea in those who have epilepsy. The researchers behind the study managed to come up with an electronic health record alert that will let neurologists know when a sleep study is needed for a patient.

The lead author of the study is Martha A. Mulvey, a nurse practitioner at University Hospital’s department of neurosciences and her co-author is Xue Ming, who is a professor of neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

The connection between epilepsy and sleep disorders

“Sleep disorders are common among people living with epilepsy and are under-diagnosed. Sleep and epilepsy have a complex reciprocal relationship. 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,” explained Martha A. Mulvey.

When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, the breathing of a patient gets blocked during sleep. According to researchers, almost half of the people with epilepsy have a higher prevalence of OSA. This puts their health at risk because it makes their seizures more severe.

Researchers discovered 12 risk factors of OSA. If an epilepsy patient displays at least two of them, a sleep study is needed. Some of the factors are: snoring; choking or gasping in sleep; unexplained nighttime awakenings; morning headaches; dry mouth, sore throat and more.

“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,” declared co-author Xue Ming.


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