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Chest. 2003 Oct;124(4):1406-14.

Prevalence of symptoms and risk of sleep apnea in primary care.

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  • 1The Center for Sleep Disorders Research, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA.



To obtain prevalence estimates for key symptoms and features that can indicate the presence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in a broad range of primary care settings.


Cross-sectional survey.


Forty offices and clinics in the United States, Germany, and Spain.


Consecutive patients who were > 15 years of age, regardless of the reason for the visit.


We collected demographic information, prevalence of self-reported chronic snoring, sleepiness, obesity (body mass index [BMI] > 30), hypertension, and calculation of OSA risk, and we also compared results between the United States and Europe.


There was a 78% return rate for 8,000 surveys (mean age, 51 years; age range, 15 to 98 years; 52% women). One third of participants (32%) had a high pretest probability for OSA, with a higher rate in the United States (35.8% of 3,915 participants) than in Europe (26.3% of 2,308 participants; p < 0.001; age-matched and sex-adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16 to 1.61). Sleepiness (32.4% vs 11.8%, respectively; p < 0.001) followed by obesity and/or hypertension (44.8% vs 37.1%, respectively; p < 0.01) contributed to the OSA risk difference between participants in the United States and Europe, as frequent snoring and breathing pauses were similarly reported (44%). A high pretest probability for OSA was more often present in men than in women (37.9% vs 27.8%, respectively; p < 0.005; OR, 1.96; CI, 1.59 to 2.88) and in those that were obese (ie, BMI, > or = 30 kg/m(2)), a condition that is generally more common in the US population than in the European population (27.9% vs 17.2%, respectively; p < 0.01).


Primary care physicians in the United States and Europe will encounter a high demand for services to confirm or manage sleep apnea, sleepiness, and obesity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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