STOP BANG test for sleep apnea

By Inquirer Staff Writer Marie McCullough:

STOP-BANG sounds like a heavy metal rock band, but it's actually a simple questionnaire to screen people for sleep apnea.

Now, Thomas Jefferson University researchers have a study that shows the test can identify patients who are likely to suffer complications after surgery and thus need special care.

The questionnaire, developed and validates by Canadian anesthesiologists a few years ago, poses eight yes-or-no questions about risk factors for apnea, a common disorder in which people periodically stop breathing during sleep. Patients are asked about about Snoring, Tiredness during the day, Observed apnea, high blood Pressure, Body mass index, Age, Neck cicumference, and Gender.

People with apnea are more likely to suffer lung or heart complications such as embolism or pneumonia after surgery, but most surgical patients with apnea have not been diagnosed. Overnight sleep testing in a medical facility is the gold standard for diagnosis.

Using STOP-BANG, the Jefferson researchers, led by Tajender Vasu, found that 56 out of 180 patients (41 percent) scheduled for surgery were at high risk of apnea. Patients with high-risk STOP—BANG scores turned out to have higher rates of postoperative complications — 19.6 percent compared to 1.3 percent for patients with low-risk scores. In other words, apnea raises the risk of complications tenfold.

The next question for researchers is what to do for such patients. Theoretically, the researchers say, they could benefit from postsurgical use of a standard apnea treatment called CPAP, a device that increases nasal airway pressure to prevent interuptions in breathing.

The study appears in the October issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.

To check out more Check Up items go to