Obstructive sleep apnea screening and postoperative mortality in a large surgical cohort

Ellen M. Lockhart, Mark D. Willingham, Arbi Ben Abdallah, Daniel L. Helsten, Bahaa A. Bedair, James Thomas, Stephen Duntley, Michael S. Avidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Objective: A recent investigation at Barnes-Jewish Hospital located in St. Louis, Missouri, found that an estimated 22% of adults presenting for inpatient surgery screened as high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Surgical patients with OSA have multiple comorbidities and are at increased risk for perioperative complications. Our objective was to determine if a prior diagnosis of OSA or a positive screen for OSA was associated with increased risk for 30-day and one-year mortality. Methods: B-J APNEAS (Barnes-Jewish Apnea Prevalence in Every Admission Study) was a prospective cohort study. Unselected adult surgical patients at Barnes Jewish Hospital were prospectively enrolled between February 2006 and April 2010. All patients completed preoperative OSA screening and those who were at risk for OSA according to a combination of the Berlin and Flemons screening tools received targeted postoperative interventions. STOP (loud Snoring, daytime Tiredness, Observed apneas, and high blood Pressure) and STOP-BANG (STOP, plus body mass index [BMI], age, neck circumference, and gender) scores also were obtained. Results: Overall, the sample included 14,962 patients, of whom 1939 (12.9%) reported a history of OSA. All four screening tools identified a high prevalence of undiagnosed patients at risk for OSA (9.5%-41.6%), but agreement among screens was not strong with κ statistic ranging from 0.225 to 0.611. There was no significant difference in 30-day postoperative mortality between patients with possible OSA (based on their history or on a positive OSA screen with any of the four instruments) and the rest of the surgical population. Significant differences in one-year mortality were noted between the low-risk and high-risk groups as identified by the Flemons' (4.96% vs 6.91%; p<0.0001), STOP (5.28% vs 7.57%; p<0.0001) and STOP-BANG (4.13% vs 7.45%; p<0.0001) screens. After adjusting for risk factors, none of the OSA screening tools independently predicted mortality rate up to one year postoperatively. Conclusion: Neither a prior diagnosis of OSA nor a positive screen for OSA risk was associated with increased 30-day or one-year postoperative mortality. Differences in 1 year postoperative mortality were noted with three of the screening tools. The results of our study highlight uncertainties and research priorities for the medical community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-415
Number of pages9
JournalSleep Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Berlin
  • Flemons
  • OSA screening tools
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Perioperative mortality
  • Perioperative screening
  • STOP


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