What is the treatment?
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is often the treatment of choice for people who have been diagnosed as suffering with OSA. This treatment works by preventing the air passage from narrowing or collapsing during sleep.
CPAP equipment continuously and gently blows slightly pressurised air through a nasal mask into the air passage. This prevents the collapse of the airway during sleep.
Once the air passage is held open by the use of CPAP, both breathing and sleep usually return to normal.
In 2008, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence issued a technology appraisal guide for CPAP as a treatment for OSAHS, and recommended the following;
1.1 Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is recommended as a treatment option for adults with moderate or severe symptomatic obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome (OSAHS).
1.2 CPAP is only recommended as a treatment option for adults with mild OSAHS if:
- They have symptoms that affect their quality of life and ability to go about their daily activities, and
- Lifestyle advice and any other relevant treatment options have been unsuccessful or are considered inappropriate.
Although CPAP is considered the most effective treatment for OSAHS, it requires specialist involvement throughout from equipment selection at initial set up, to adherence monitoring and compliance checks, trouble shooting and long term intervention, as potentially the patient may need CPAP treatment for life.
Alternative forms of treatment, although limited, may be considered if CPAP treatment is not tolerated or not recommended. Dental positioning devices may be suitable for mild/moderate OSAHS to help keep the pharyngeal airway open during sleep. Surgery is an option for some patients but is not routinely used in clinical practice.