Sleep Disorders

15 August 2013

Respiratory therapy lowers death risk

Treatment with continuous positive airway pressure reduces the risk of death in people who suffer from sleep apnoea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) reduces the risk of death in people who suffer from both sleep apnoea and a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from 227 patients with both conditions, and found that those who used CPAP had a lower risk of death than those who didn't use the therapy. Seventeen patients died during the 2007-2010 study period.

While minimal use of CPAP was associated with some reduction in the risk of death, the more hours that patients used CPAP while they slept, the lower their risk of death.

The study appears in the 15 August issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The researchers were "most surprised" to find that any level of CPAP use by these patients was associated with a reduced risk of death, according to study author Dr Michael Stanchina, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and a physician at Rhode Island Hospital.

"This study adds to the growing body of literature regarding the combined impact of [obstructive sleep apnoea] in patients with COPD," he said in a journal news release.

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep apnoea causes a person's airway to become blocked or collapse during sleep. CPAP keeps the airway open by streaming air through a mask that a person wears during sleep.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about continuous positive airway pressure.


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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