You can now ‘watch’ yourself for sleep apnea

Health Scan: The best way to dry hands after washing is with paper towels.

sleep apnea test 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
sleep apnea test 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
WatchPAT, a small Israeli-produced wrist-worn device with a finger-mounted solution for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) at home instead of going to a sleep lab has been selected as one of the “Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2010” by a panel of experts at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. The light device is much more comfortable than belts around the chest and other cumbersome equipment in sleep labs that make it hard for some patients to fall asleep.
Developed and manufactured by Itamar- Medical in Caesarea, the diagnostic tool is expected to save health systems a lot of money. This month, the American Medical Association announced a new CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) code for at-home testing of OSA that will go into effect January 1, 2011. As a result, home testing and diagnosing of this sleep disorder will now become reimbursable for all US physicians.
An estimated 28 million Americans suffer from OSA, with about 20 million more going undiagnosed. The health-related cost burden in the US for undiagnosed OSA – a dangerous condition that can lead to a variety of heart ailments, stroke and death – is estimated at $3.4 billion.
“With the new CPT code going into effect, millions of Americans suffering from sleep apnea can now benefit from easy, low-cost access to in-home sleep testing using our WatchPAT device,” notes Itamar-Medical president and CEO Dr. Dov Rubin. “Patients can now take the test in the comfort of their own bed, affording them timely diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea, which is linked to other ailments such as heart disease, hypertension and obesity.”
Rubin adds that “internists, cardiologists, and family physicians can now order the tests and get reimbursed. Using Itamar- Medical’s WatchPORTAL technology, physicians can download the information instantly at no extra charge and obtain a diagnosis in consultation with a local sleep physician or via Itamar’s nationwide network of experts, with results delivered back to a smartphone.”
The company’s US headquarters is in Franklin, Maine.
Itamar-Medical was established in 1997 and is a publicly traded medical device company.
It developed the proprietary PAT (Peripheral Arterial Tone) signal, a non-invasive “window” to the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems. It is used clinically for the early detection not only of OSA but also heart disease and erectile dysfunction.
At the conclusion of an 18-year study supported by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it was reported in 2008 that adults aged 30 to 60 with sleep-related breathing disorders were two to three times more likely to die than those without a sleep-related breathing disorder. When sleep is disrupted daily, fatigue becomes a chronic condition; rates of driving and workplace accidents increase significantly; and sufferers eat more and become less physically active.
Dr. Steven Lamm, a New York internist who regularly performs WatchPAT tests on his patients, says that “with WatchPAT and the new CPT code, we now have the technology that will allow community doctors nationwide easy access to diagnosing sleep apnea. Because of that, the role of the sleep lab will change. Sleep lab testing is still extremely important, though I want to reserve it for those patients with especially complicated sleep issues, such as restless leg syndrome, insomnia and narcolepsy.”
While sleep lab polysomnography testing has been the standard of care for OSA diagnosis, it is anticipated that many labs will also be offering home testing to expand their services.
Although public toilets increasingly offer electric hand dryers instead of paper towels so they save the money and mess, British researchers have found that the best way to dry hands after washing is with paper towels. The study, published recently in the Journal of Applied Microbiology and reported by UPI, finds the most effective way of keeping bacterial counts low when drying hands was using disposable paper towels.
Dr. Anna Snelling of the University of Bradford wrote that not drying hands thoroughly after washing can increase the spread of bacteria. Using a conventional electric hand dryer by rubbing one’s hands together may actually contribute to the spread of bacteria. Snelling and colleagues examined different ways of hand drying – paper towels, traditional hand dryers that rely on evaporation and a new model that rapidly strips water off the hands using high-velocity air jets. They studied them for how many bacteria were left on the hands.
While the most effective way of keeping bacterial counts low when drying hands was using paper towels, they found that and the electric dryer that rapidly stripped moisture off the hands was best for reducing transfer of bacteria to other surfaces.