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Sleep Apnea Study: CPAP Therapy Does Not Cut Heart Attack Or Stroke Risk

For many years, doctors have been telling patients that using their continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) devices will successfully treat their sleep apnea symptoms and lower their risk for dangerous sleep apnea-related health conditions. However, a new sleep apnea study published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has found that although typical CPAP usage can help sleep apnea patients feel less tired during the day and get better rest, it may not cut the risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular emergencies, or stroke.

Does CPAP Therapy Cut Your Risk Of Heart Attacks?

The new study, called “CPAP for Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” was published on August 28, 2016, and conducted by the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health of Flinders University of South Australia and the George Institute for Global Health. It asked a simple question: do those using CPAP devices have a lower risk of cardiovascular events than those who do not treat their obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with CPAP?

The study examined over 2,700 patients from around the world who had a history of cardiovascular disease as well as moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. The patients, who were located in 89 clinic in seven countries, were between the ages of 45 and 75 and 81 percent male. Some people were barred from participating, including:

  • Those who still suffered from excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Those who were considered to have higher risk of a fatigue-related accident during the day.
  • Those with severe hypoxemia (significant oxygen drops during sleep testing).
  • Those with significant congestive heart failure.
  • Those who used their CPAP machine less than three hours per night on average.

After the group was split into two–those who used CPAP and those who underwent usual care (lifestyle changes and education)–initial data were collected. The study followed up with the patients at six months, two years, and four years. At each of these assessments, the patients took a number of surveys and were examined for general health and heart health. Specifically, the researchers tracked:

  • Death from any cardiovascular cause
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Stroke
  • Hospitalization for heart failure
  • Acute coronary syndrome (including unstable angina)
  • Transient ischemic attack.
  • Revascularization procedures
  • New onset atrial fibrillation
  • New-onset diabetes

The study found that although those using the CPAP device cut the severity of their sleep apnea significantly, the group did not have fewer cardiovascular events than those not using the CPAP therapy. Specifically, 17 percent of patients who used CPAP therapy suffered a serious heart event over four years while 15.4 percent of patients who did not use CPAP therapy suffered a serious heart event over the same time period.

At this point, researchers do not know why CPAP can improve some effects of sleep apnea while not improving others. Further research will have to take place–and OSA sufferers concerned about their heart health may wish to seek alternate means of treatment for their sleep condition.

A Surgical Solution To Sleep Apnea

While CPAP therapy is a workable solution for many patients who struggle with obstructive sleep apnea, others find the treatment lacking: it can be difficult to use without side effects, it can be difficult to use consistently, and it can make you life more complex. At the same time, studies like the one above suggest that while CPAP can treat some symptoms of OSA effectively, it may not be addressing other serious health concerns that have been linked to sleep apnea.

At Surgical Sleep Solutions, we offer an innovative, effective surgical sleep apnea treatment called bimaxillary advancement surgery. This treatment, which eliminates the symptoms of sleep apnea in over 95 percent of our patients, moves the jaw forward, increasing the airway and decreasing obstructions. To learn more about this surgery, or to talk to one of our physicians, please contact us today: (855) 560-7378.