Pediatric pulse oximetry-based OSA screening at different thresholds of the apnea-hypopnea index with an expression of uncertainty for inconclusive classifications

Ainara Garde* (Corresponding Author), Xenia Hoppenbrouwer, Parastoo Dehkordi, Guohai Zhou, Aryannah Umedaly Rollinson, David Wensley, Guy A. Dumont, J. Mark Ansermino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Assessments of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are underutilized across Canada due to a lack of resources. Polysomnography (PSG) measures OSA severity through the average number of apnea/hypopnea events per hour (AHI), but is resource intensive and requires a specialized sleep laboratory, which results in long waitlists and delays in OSA detection. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of OSA are crucial for children, as untreated OSA is linked to behavioral deficits, growth failure, and negative cardiovascular consequences. We aim to assess the performance of a portable pediatric OSA screening tool at different AHI cut-offs using overnight smartphone-based pulse oximetry. Material and methods: Following ethics approval and informed consent, children referred to British Columbia Children's Hospital for overnight PSG were recruited for two studies including 160 and 75 children, respectively. An additional smartphone-based pulse oximeter sensor was used in both studies to record overnight pulse oximetry [SpO2 and photoplethysmogram (PPG)] alongside the PSG. Features characterizing SpO2 dynamics and heart rate variability from pulse peak intervals of the PPG signal were derived from pulse oximetry recordings. Three multivariate logistic regression screening models, targeted at three different levels of OSA severity (AHI ≥ 1, 5, and 10), were developed using stepwise-selection of features using the Bayesian information criterion (BIC). The “Gray Zone” approach was also implemented for different tolerance values to allow for more precise detection of children with inconclusive classification results. Results: The optimal diagnostic tolerance values defining the “Gray Zone” borders (15, 10, and 5, respectively) were selected to develop the final models to screen for children at AHI cut-offs of 1, 5, and 10. The final models evaluated through cross-validation showed good accuracy (75%, 82% and 89%), sensitivity (80%, 85% and 82%) and specificity (65%, 79% and 91%) values for detecting children with AHI ≥ 1, AHI ≥ 5 and AHI ≥ 10. The percentage of children classified as inconclusive was 28%, 38% and 16% for models detecting AHI ≥ 1, AHI ≥ 5, and AHI ≥ 10, respectively. Conclusions: The proposed pulse oximetry-based OSA screening tool at different AHI cut-offs may assist clinicians in identifying children at different OSA severity levels. Using this tool at home prior to PSG can help with optimizing the limited resources for PSG screening. Further validation with larger and more heterogeneous datasets is required before introducing in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Mobile health solutions
  • Oxygen saturation dynamics
  • Pediatric sleep apnea
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Pulse rate variability
  • Signal analysis
  • n/a OA procedure


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