Screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults: Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2017 Jan 24;317(4):415-433. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.19635.


Importance: Many adverse health outcomes are associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Objective: To review primary care-relevant evidence on screening adults for OSA, test accuracy, and treatment of OSA, to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and trial registries through October 2015, references, and experts, with surveillance of the literature through October 5, 2016.

Study selection: English-language randomized clinical trials (RCTs); studies evaluating accuracy of screening questionnaires or prediction tools, diagnostic accuracy of portable monitors, or association between apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and health outcomes among community-based participants.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two investigators independently reviewed abstracts and full-text articles. When multiple similar studies were available, random-effects meta-analyses were conducted.

Main outcomes and measures: Sensitivity, specificity, area under the curve (AUC), AHI, Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) scores, blood pressure, mortality, cardiovascular events, motor vehicle crashes, quality of life, and harms.

Results: A total of 110 studies were included (N = 46 188). No RCTs compared screening with no screening. In 2 studies (n = 702), the screening accuracy of the multivariable apnea prediction score followed by home portable monitor testing for detecting severe OSA syndrome (AHI ≥30 and ESS score >10) was AUC 0.80 (95% CI, 0.78 to 0.82) and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.77 to 0.90), respectively, but the studies oversampled high-risk participants and those with OSA and OSA syndrome. No studies prospectively evaluated screening tools to report calibration or clinical utility for improving health outcomes. Meta-analysis found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) compared with sham was significantly associated with reduction of AHI (weighted mean difference [WMD], -33.8 [95% CI, -42.0 to -25.6]; 13 trials, 543 participants), excessive sleepiness assessed by ESS score (WMD, -2.0 [95% CI, -2.6 to -1.4]; 22 trials, 2721 participants), diurnal systolic blood pressure (WMD, -2.4 points [95% CI, -3.9 to -0.9]; 15 trials, 1190 participants), and diurnal diastolic blood pressure (WMD, -1.3 points [95% CI, -2.2 to -0.4]; 15 trials, 1190 participants). CPAP was associated with modest improvement in sleep-related quality of life (Cohen d, 0.28 [95% CI, 0.14 to 0.42]; 13 trials, 2325 participants). Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and weight loss programs were also associated with reduced AHI and excessive sleepiness. Common adverse effects of CPAP and MADs included oral or nasal dryness, irritation, and pain, among others. In cohort studies, there was a consistent association between AHI and all-cause mortality.

Conclusions and relevance: There is uncertainty about the accuracy or clinical utility of all potential screening tools. Multiple treatments for OSA reduce AHI, ESS scores, and blood pressure. Trials of CPAP and other treatments have not established whether treatment reduces mortality or improves most other health outcomes, except for modest improvement in sleep-related quality of life.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advisory Committees*
  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandibular Advancement / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory System / surgery
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uncertainty
  • United States