Pulse Oximetry Could Prevent Stroke in OSA Patients

May 16, 2021
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus


Sleep apnea isn’t just about poor sleep. It truly affects the entire body. From heart disease to depression to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, the dangers of sleep apnea are well documented, despite not knowing why these connections exist.

In an effort to examine one particular comorbid condition further, a study from the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine has uncovered evidence that something called pulse rate oximetry may soon be used to predict a stroke in those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

In the study, 6075 persons with sleep apnea were followed. These individuals had not suffered from a stroke at the beginning of the study. Among those 6075 participants, 2536 were treated for sleep apnea. Other participants were not treated for sleep apnea by choice or did not use their prescribed sleep apnea device. After following up with the initial group of study participants approximately 6.5 years after the initial study began, 459 had passed away. An additional 177 patients were diagnosed as having had a stroke in the interim.

During the study, researchers used overnight pulse rate oximetry to measure the pulse rate variability in each patient who was described as having five or more sleep apnea events per sleep. The researchers wrote, “Individuals with OSA, particularly those with severe disease, who demonstrate low sympathovagal balance (LF/HF) are at increased risk [for] stroke.”

While this is bad news for those with untreated sleep apnea, the good news is that someday soon pulse rate oximetry may be used to help prevent stroke in sleep apnea patients. This is also all the more reason to get your sleep apnea under control with a sleep study, diagnosis, and subsequent treatment.

If you’re concerned about your treatment options and hesitant to try common sleep apnea therapies like CPAP, we have more good news. There are treatment options available that go beyond CPAP, including mandibular sleep orthotics which are custom fit to your individual mouth. Mandibular devices work without the use of a mask and do not force air into your mouth. Rather, they help prop open your airway naturally, allowing you to breathe easier as you sleep.

If you are interested in learning more about sleep orthotics, schedule a consultation with Dr. Mingus today!