Cost-effectiveness analysis of nocturnal oximetry as a method of screening for sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome

Chest. 1998 Jan;113(1):97-103. doi: 10.1378/chest.113.1.97.


Study objective: Determine the utility of nocturnal oximetry as a screening tool for sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) compared with polysomnography (PSG).

Design: Cost-effectiveness analysis based on retrospective review of overnight sleep studies.

Setting: United States Air Force tertiary teaching hospital.

Patients: One hundred consecutive patients evaluated for SAHS by overnight sleep study.

Intervention: Participants underwent PSG and oximetry on the same night. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea had a continuous positive airway pressure trial.

Measurements: Oximetry was abnormal when > or =10 events per hour occurred. Two criteria were evaluated. A "deep" pattern of > 4% change in oxyhemoglobin saturation to < or =90%, and a "fluctuating" pattern of repetitive short-duration fluctuations in saturation. The diagnostic accuracy of both methods was compared with PSG. Cost-effectiveness of screening oximetry was compared with PSG alone and use of split-night studies.

Results: The fluctuating pattern had a greater sensitivity and negative predictive value, while the deep pattern had a greater specificity and positive predictive value. Oximetry screening using the fluctuating pattern was not as sensitive as PSG for detecting patients with mild disease; 17 of 28 patients (61%) with normal oximetry results had treatable conditions detected by PSG. Cost analysis showed that screening oximetry would save $4,290/100 patients but with considerable loss of diagnostic accuracy.

Conclusion: Screening oximetry is not cost-effective because of poor diagnostic accuracy despite increased sensitivity using the fluctuating pattern. Greater savings, without loss of diagnostic accuracy, may be achieved through increased utilization of split-night PSGs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oximetry / economics*
  • Oxyhemoglobins / metabolism
  • Polysomnography / economics
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / blood
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Syndrome


  • Oxyhemoglobins