In a new study, researchers found that 3D facial photography can provide a simple and highly accurate method of predicting obstructive sleep apnea.
The research builds on previous work identifying that the structure of the face, head, and neck played a key role in diagnosing sleep apnea.
The research was led by a team from the University of Western Australia.
Sleep disorders are estimated to cost the Australian health system more than $5 billion annually.
More than half the cost is linked to sleep apnea which is associated with snoring and repeated periods of ‘choking’ during sleep.
Sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness and is strongly linked to sleepiness related accidents, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and depression.
Despite sleep apnea being treatable, the vast majority—up to75 percent—of individuals remain undiagnosed.
This is largely because current methods of assessing sleep apnea are expensive and access to them is limited.
In the study, the team recruited 400 middle-aged men and women who took part in sleep studies at UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital while their faces were analyzed from 3-D photographs.
They found they could predict the presence of obstructive sleep apnea with 91% accuracy when craniofacial measurements from 3-D photography were combined into a single predictive algorithm.
The finding suggests that it might also be possible to predict the severity of a person’s sleep apnea from these photographs.
It may reduce the burden on hospitals and sleep clinics that currently run sleep studies for everyone. It can flag people at risk of sleep apnea who can then be referred for diagnosis and treatment.
The lead author of the study is Professor Peter Eastwood, director of the Centre for Sleep Science.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
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