Point-of-Care Ultrasound for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Screening: Are We There Yet? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Anesth Analg. 2019 Dec;129(6):1673-1691. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000004350.


Background: Perioperative diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has important resource implications as screening questionnaires are overly sensitive, and sleep studies are expensive and time-consuming. Ultrasound (US) is a portable, noninvasive tool potentially useful for airway evaluation and OSA screening in the perioperative period. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the correlation of surface US with OSA diagnosis and to determine whether a point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) for OSA screening may help with improved screening in perioperative period.

Methods: A search of all electronic databases including Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews was conducted from database inception to September 2017. Inclusion criteria were observational cohort studies and randomized controlled trials of known or suspected OSA patients undergoing surface US assessment. Article screening, data extraction, and summarization were conducted by 2 independent reviewers with ability to resolve conflict with supervising authors. Diagnostic properties and association between US parameters (index test) and OSA diagnosis using sleep study (reference standard) were evaluated. The US parameters were divided into airway and nonairway parameters. A random-effects meta-analysis was planned, wherever applicable.

Results: Of the initial 3865 screened articles, 21 studies (7 airway and 14 nonairway) evaluating 3339 patients were included. Majority of studies were conducted in the general population (49%), respirology (23%), and sleep clinics (12%). No study evaluated the use of US for OSA in perioperative setting. Majority of included studies had low risk of bias for reference standard and flow and timing. Airway US parameters having moderate-good correlation with moderate-severe OSA were distance between lingual arteries (DLAs > 30 mm; sensitivity, 0.67; specificity, 0.59; 1 study/66 patients); mean resting tongue thickness (>60 mm; sensitivity, 0.85; specificity, 0.59; 1 study/66 patients); tongue base thickness during Muller maneuver (MM; sensitivity, 0.59; specificity, 0.78; 1 study/66 patients); and a combination of neck circumference and retropalatal (RP) diameter shortening during MM (sensitivity, 1.0; specificity, 0.65; 1 study/104 patients). Nonairway US parameters having a low-moderate correlation with moderate-severe OSA were carotid intimal thickness (pooled correlation coefficient, 0.444; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.320-0.553; P value = .000, 8 studies/727 patients) and plaque presence (sensitivity, 0.24-0.75; specificity, 0.13-1.0; 4 studies/1183 patients).

Conclusions: We found that a number of airway and nonairway parameters were identified with moderate to good correlation with OSA diagnosis in the general population. In future studies, it remains to be seen whether PoCUS screening for a combination of these parameters can address the pitfalls of OSA screening questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / trends*
  • Perioperative Care / methods
  • Perioperative Care / trends
  • Point-of-Care Systems / trends*
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Polysomnography / trends
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnostic imaging
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / trends*