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Estimated prevalence of OSA in the Americas stands at 170 million



The estimated prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in North and South America stands at 170 million, results from a novel epidemiologic analysis showed.

Dr. Atul Malhotra, director of sleep medicine at the University of California, San Diego

Dr. Atul Malhotra

“I would not have thought that there are 170 million people in the Americas with clinically important sleep apnea based on our conservative estimates,” the study’s first author, Atul Malhotra, MD, said in an interview in advance of the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. “Even if we restrict the conversation to moderate to severe sleep apnea, we still see 81 million people afflicted in the Americas alone. We have recently estimated almost 1 billion patients afflicted with OSA worldwide.”

In an effort to estimate the Americas’ prevalence of adult OSA using existing data from epidemiologic studies, Dr. Malhotra, director of sleep medicine at the University of California, San Diego, senior author Adam V. Benjafield, PhD, and their colleagues contacted authors of important analyses on the topic following an exhaustive review of the literature. For countries where no measurement had been made, they used publicly available data to obtain estimates of age, sex, race, and body mass index. Next, they developed an algorithm to match countries without prevalence estimates with countries from which OSA epidemiologic studies exist. “The situation was complicated given the variable age of the existing studies, the differences in technology used (e.g., nasal pressure vs. thermistor), the changing scoring criteria, and other sources of variability,” the researchers wrote in their abstract.

Dr. Malhotra reported on data from 38 of 40 countries in the Americas. Drawing from American Academy of Sleep Medicine 2012 criteria and using what they characterized as a “somewhat conservative” approach, the researchers estimated the prevalence of adult OSA in the Americas to be 170 million, or 37% of the population. In addition, they estimate that 81 million adults, or 18% of the population, suffer from moderate to severe OSA based on an apnea hypopnea index of 15 or more per hour. The countries with the greatest burden of OSA are the United States (54 million), Brazil (49 million), and Colombia (11 million).

“The findings will hopefully help to raise awareness about the disease but also encourage a strategic conversation regarding how best to address this large burden,” Dr. Malhotra said. “We are unaware of prior efforts to estimate OSA prevalence on a large scale.”

He acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including that the methods, equipment, definitions, and criteria used in existing studies in the medial literature varied widely. “We did our best to harmonize these methods across studies but obviously we can’t change the equipment that was used in previous studies,” he said. “Thus, we view our findings as an estimate requiring further efforts to corroborate.”

The research stemmed from an academic/industry partnership with ResMed, which provided a donation the UCSD Sleep Medicine Center. Dr. Malhotra reported having no financial disclosures. Dr. Benjafield is an employee of ResMed, a medical equipment company that specializes in sleep-related breathing devices.

SOURCE: Malhotra A et al. SLEEP 2019, Abstract 0477.

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