Recent studies have suggested that there is a familial association of sleep apnoea syndrome and that this is not entirely explained by inheritance of known risk factors. Maori (M) and Pacific Islanders (PI) have many of the body habitus features associated with sleep apnoea and therefore might be expected to exhibit more severe disease than Europeans (E).
Objective: To compare the clinical and physiological characteristics of the different ethnic groups and to determine if race was an independent predictor of severity of sleep apnoea.
Methodology: A prospective evaluation of patients attending the Sleep Disordered Breathing Clinic which serves the whole of Auckland (population 1.1 million), New Zealand was conducted for the period July 1994 to August 1995. The evaluation included history including a 26 question questionnaire, Epworth sleepiness score, examination, and where indicated, full polysomnography.
Results: A total of 233 patients (154 E, 48 M and 33 PI), underwent full polysomnography. Forty-one (85%) of the M and 31 (94%) of PI had obstructive or mixed sleep apnoea compared with only 74 (49%) of the E (P < 0.0001; chi 2). There were few racial differences in the responses to the sleep questionnaire. M and PI were shown to have much greater neck and waist circumference and body mass indices. Severity parameters (apnoea-hypopnoea index, wake and minimum oxygen saturation, and apnoea duration) were greater for both M and PI compared with E (P < 0.001; Mann-Whitney U-test). Stepwise regression identified neck size, body mass index and age as independent predictors of severity.
Conclusion: When other factors were controlled for, race was not an important independent predictor of severity of sleep apnoea.