Innovative method can spot sleep apnoea risk by analysing photo

January 14th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 14 (IANS) An innovative technique developed by a team of researchers can spot the risk of one’s developing obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) by analysing digital facial photos. Peter Cistulli and Richard Lee of The Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research have found that analysis of detailed measurements of the face from digital photographs can help doctors identify those most in danger of developing OSA.

“The novelty and potential clinical application of our work are very exciting and should hopefully lead to improved recognition and diagnosis of OSA in the community,” Cistulli said.

Four percent of middle-aged men and two percent of middle-aged women suffer from OSA syndrome in Australia alone while almost 50 percent of middle-aged men snore during sleep, a symptom of OSA.

The disease is characterised by the repetitive closure of the upper airway during periods of interrupted sleep and is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and strokes.

Previous methods of diagnosis have involved expensive specialist assessment and overnight monitoring in a sleep lab, meaning the majority of OSA sufferers are as yet undiagnosed.

“This new approach is really a response to the critical clinical need to develop more readily accessible, non-invasive methods that can enable doctors to more efficiently diagnose larger numbers of patients,” Cistulli said.

Whilst being tested at the RNSH, the new test accurately diagnosed 76 percent of OSA cases, yielding a higher success rate than the traditional clinical methods of questionnaires, medical histories and examinations, said a RNSH release.

Cistulli and Lee’s work has been published in two articles in the latest edition of SLEEP and has been patented through RNSH. They are hoping to commercialise the invention.

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