AHRQ Clinician, Patient Guides on Sleep Apnea Review Diagnosis, Management

Evidence Points to CPAP Devices as Most Effective Treatment

August 24, 2011 03:50 pm News Staff

The Effective Health Care Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, has released guides on obstructive sleep apnea for clinicians(www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov) and adult patients(effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov).

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The guides are based on a comparative effectiveness review(www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov) of 234 studies that was conducted by researchers at Tufts Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center in Boston.

An estimated 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Millions more likely have the condition but have not been diagnosed, according to AHRQ. The guides discuss the accuracy of various screening and diagnostic tools and offer evidence-based assessments of a number of treatment approaches.

According to the clinician guide, continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. However, researchers found that evidence was insufficient to compare the various types of CPAP units.

Mandibular advancement devices, or MADs, also are effective, although both MAD and CPAP treatment methods are associated with side effects, which also are covered by the guides.

Weight loss may be an effective treatment for obese patients who have sleep apnea, but the evidence supporting this management option was not as strong as that supporting the use of CPAP devices and MADs. Evidence was insufficient to assess the merits of surgical interventions.

The consumer guide explains the disorder and its effects, summarizes treatment options and costs associated with those options, and offers a list of questions patients can discuss with their physicians.

To order free print copies of either guide or the full systematic evidence review, call the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at (800) 358-9295.