This paper reviews some concepts on health economics from the authors personal perspective. It then examines the few papers published on health economics analysis applied to the field of sleep apnea syndrome, as well as the literature on the indirect (cost) consequences of sleep apnea syndrome. It appears that undiagnosed sleep apnea leads to a roughly two-fold increase in medical expenses in the years preceding the diagnosis and that treating the disease (once it is diagnosed) results in a decrease in these excess costs. It seems clear that sleep apnea increases the actual number of road traffic accidents, which will carry a definite, but unmeasured up to now, economic cost consequence. From the health economic point of view, the best diagnostic strategy is the one with the greater utility (i.e. polysomnography), although it could appear at first sight to be the more expensive one. From the patient's perspective, sleep apnea results in a given decrease in the possibilities to enjoy life, and its treatment is worth considering, especially if one takes into account that the actual treatment costs are not great. The global image of the health costs related to sleep apnea is still blurred, and further work is required to get the complete and clear picture of the economic consequences of this disease and of its treatment.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.