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  • Writer's picturePatient Safety, Inc.

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Putting Your Patients at Risk of Severe Covid-19?

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Putting Your Patients at Risk of Severe Covid-19?

In a recent study examining the risk factors for COVID-19, it was found that 29% of admitted patients had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Investigators theorize that the intermittent hypoxemia and chronic inflammation associated with OSA may contribute to this disproportionately high correlation with severe COVID-19, independent of obesity. The researchers also found that patients with OSA were more likely to require critical care when diagnosed with COVID-19 (Feuth et al., 2020).

OSA is a serious medical condition with critical relationships to obesity and hypertension, the two main factors affecting morbidity and mortality in COVID-19 cases (Krakow, 2020). In September, a study published by Maas and colleagues found that COVID-19 patients with an existing OSA diagnosis were five times more likely to be hospitalized, highlighting the interrelatedness of chronic inflammatory diseases and the adverse impact they have on the course of infection. Further, when controlling for diabetes, hypertension, and BMI, OSA nearly doubled the risk of respiratory failure (odds ratio: 1.98) (Maas et al., 2020).

How Can You Help Your Patients in the Fight Against COVID-19?


Oximetry screening is a low cost, easy-to-use, objective tool for accurately assessing OSA risk. Given that OSA is widespread and significantly underdiagnosed, testing with overnight oximetry can help those with positive screenings understand their risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Having this knowledge allows individuals to make better-informed choices regarding preventative measures they and their families choose to implement in their household.

Detect Silent Hypoxia

Second, oximetry can be used to detect "silent hypoxia," which has been seen in COVID-19 patients.

Early detection of hypoxia in COVID-19 patients can prevent the need for highly invasive treatments such as intubation that currently result in an 80% mortality rate for patients (Teo, 2020).

Managing Active Infections

Knowing someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 has OSA provides clinicians with important clinical information. This knowledge can help healthcare providers develop a patient's care path and guide decision-making when timely intervention is critical and resources are stretched.

Offer Apnea Screening & Make an Impact in Your Community

Perhaps more than ever, early detection and prevention can save lives and improve outcomes. Many of the clinicians we work with at Patient Safety are on the front line of patient care, interacting with large, diverse populations in higher frequency than other specialties of care. Using the tools already implemented in your practice, you can put your SleepSat to good use by adding objective apnea screening to your provided services. Marketing oximetry screening adds another valuable service to your practice and ultimately positively impacts your patients and their families. Further, an oximeter's simple instructions for use make it ideal for curbside pick-up and drop-off, creating an opening to engage patients who may be abstaining from other types of appointments.


  1. Feuth T, et al. Is sleep apnea a risk factor for Covid-19? Findings from a retrospective cohort study. medRxiv 2020.

  2. Krakow, B. Missing Sleep apnea link may affect Covid-19 outcomes. The Epoch Times 2020.

  3. Teo, J. Early Detection of Silent Hypoxia in Covid-19 Pneumonia Using Smartphone Pulse Oximetry. J Med Syst 44, 134 (2020.

  4. Maas, M. B., Kim, M., Malkani, R. G., Abbott, S. M., & Zee, P. C. (2020). Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Risk of COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization and Respiratory Failure. Sleep & breathing = Schlaf & Atmung, 1–3. Advance online publication.

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