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8 December 2017

Cash boost for Papworth project that could revolutionise sleep apnoea diagnosis

Papworth sleep experts have secured funding to develop a new, non-invasive, sleep apnoea measurement device that could transform the way people are diagnosed with the condition.

Consultant Physician Dr Ian Smith, Director of Papworth Hospital’s Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre (RSSC), was awarded £124,724 by Medtech Accelerator to develop the device which could benefit the treatment of children in particular.

More than 600,000 people in the UK have significant obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) which causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep and has a big impact on quality of life. The condition greatly increases the risk of driving accidents and is associated with hypertension, atrial fibrillation and strokes.

Dr Smith said the device – which is expected to be smaller than a small pizza box – would be placed beneath a patient’s bed at home and, using radar, would capture reflections of their chest while they sleep and record patterns of breathing.

It is hoped the tool will help improve the diagnosing of children with OSA.

He said: “Symptoms of OSA in children include hyperactivity, not being able to concentrate as well as snoring. Many children can be treated by tonsillectomy but many children remain undiagnosed. In addition a child with OSA needs to undergo surgery in a hospital with paediatric ICU but most children having tonsillectomy have never had a sleep study and may be at unrecognised risk.”

“There are lots of ways of diagnosing adults with OSA, but it’s a challenge in children. The devices and tests we use at the moment are complex and involve lots of wires which children tend to pull off in the night.

“If we can develop this device it would make diagnosis very simple; it’s not attached to the patient and is likely to give a more faithful record of normal sleep. We are aiming for a device that we would be able to post out to patients at home.”

The award brings together the expertise of Papworth Hospital and technology development and commercialisation company Iceni Labs.