Background: Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, principally from cardiovascular disease, but the impact of nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is unclear.
Methods: We performed a long-term follow-up study of 168 patients with OSAS who had begun receiving CPAP therapy at least 5 years previously, most of whom had been prospectively followed up, having been the subject of an earlier report on cardiovascular risk factors in OSAS patients. The average follow-up period was 7.5 years. We compared the cardiovascular outcomes of those patients who were intolerant of CPAP (untreated group, 61 patients) with those continuing CPAP therapy (107 patients).
Results: CPAP-treated patients had a higher median apnea-hypopnea index score than the untreated group (48.3 [interquartile range (IQR), 33.6 to 66.4] vs 36.7 [IQR, 27.4 to 55], respectively; p = 0.02), but age, body mass index, and time since diagnosis were similar. Deaths from cardiovascular disease were more common in the untreated group than in the CPAP-treated group during follow-up (14.8% vs 1.9%, respectively; p = 0.009 [log rank test]), but no significant differences were found in the development of new cases of hypertension, cardiac disorder, or stroke. Total cardiovascular events (ie, death and new cardiovascular disease combined) were more common in the untreated group than in the CPAP-treated group (31% vs 18%, respectively; p < 0.05).
Conclusions: The data support a protective effect of CPAP therapy against death from cardiovascular disease in patients with OSAS.