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3D facial photography to predict sleep apnoea

Photo Credit: The University of Western Australia

The University of Western Australia has led a study that discovered how three-dimensional facial photography can provide a simple and highly accurate method of predicting the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea.

According to a recent press release, the research builds on previous work identifying that the structure of the face, head, and neck played a key role in diagnosing sleep apnoea.

Professor Peter Eastwood, Director of the Centre for Sleep Science, and his research team ran overnight sleep studies.

Meanwhile, Dr Syed Zulqarnain Gilani, from UWA’s School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, analysed the 3D faces.

Predicting sleep apnoea

They learned that they could predict the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea with 91% accuracy, when craniofacial measurements from 3D photography were combined into a single predictive algorithm.

Sleep disorders are estimated to cost the Australian health system more than AU$ 5 billion annually.

More than half the cost is associated with sleep apnoea, which is associated with snoring and repeated periods of ‘choking’ during sleep.

Sleep apnoea causes daytime sleepiness and is strongly linked to sleepiness related accidents, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and depression.

Despite sleep apnoea being treatable, the vast majority, which reaches up to 75% of individuals, remain undiagnosed.

This is largely because current methods of assessing sleep apnoea are expensive and access to them is limited.

Background of the study

The study recruited 400 middle-aged men and women from the University’s Centre for Sleep Science and from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

Participants were also recruited from Western Australia’s Raine Study.

They took part in sleep studies while their faces were analysed from 3D photographs.

The study suggested that it might also be possible to predict the severity of a person’s sleep apnoea from these photographs.

This breakthrough has the potential to reduce the burden on hospitals and sleep clinics that currently run sleep studies for everyone.

In addition, it can flag people at risk of sleep apnoea, who can then be referred for diagnosis and treatment.

The Raine Study

The Raine Study is one of the largest prospective cohorts of pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and now early adulthood to be carried out anywhere in the world.

The Raine Study’s purpose is to improve human health and well-being, through the study of a cohort of Western Australians from before birth onwards.

2900 pregnant women entered the study between 1989 and 1991 and 2868 live births were recruited into the cohort.

These children born into the study, their parents, their grandparents, and now their own children are part of one of the world’s most successful multi-generational pregnancy cohort studies.

The Raine Study is a joint venture between The University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, The University of Notre Dame Australia, a medical research institute for children’s health, and an independent research institution for women and infants.


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