Berlin: An electronic nose used in detecting molecules in a patient's breath could be tweaked to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, dangerous pauses in breathing.
The gold standard used to identify sleep apnea is an overnight sleep test, a technically demanding, time-consuming and cost-intensive system.
Electronic noses have shown to distinguish between a number of diseases. They do this by analysing the pattern of volatile organic compounds in breath samples.
This is the first study that has assessed whether the electronic nose could be used to confirm the presence of sleep apnea, the European Respiratory Journal reports.
Researchers analysed the breath of 40 sleep apnea patients and 20 healthy patients who did not suffer from this disorder, according to a Marburg statement.
Timm Greulich, from the Marburg Hospital in Germany, who led the study, said: "The electronic nose could be useful in two ways: First, it can rule out the disease in a low prevalence population. Second, in a population with a high risk of sleep apnea, the device could be used to help decide who would need to undergo an overnight sleep examination."
"Following these results, we foresee that the use of the electronic nose could reduce costs by more appropriately selecting patients who require the sleep examination," Greulich said.
The study also aimed at assessing whether the electronic nose could detect the effects of the standard treatment for sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
The results found that the electronic nose could effectively diagnose sleep apnea. The statistical analysis showed that it was detected with a sensitivity of 93 percent.