Study: Common Sleep Apnea Treatment May Not Benefit Patients Older Than 80 Years of Age


Prior studies indicate that CPAP treatment can significantly decrease sleepiness and depression while also protecting against high blood pressure.

A new study suggests that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may not be as effective in patients older than 80 years of age, according to a University of Missouri press release.

CPAP machines deliver a stream of air into a person’s airway via a mask and tube, which prevents the airway from collapsing and facilitates continuous breathing during sleep. Prior studies indicate that CPAP treatment can significantly decrease sleepiness and depression while also protecting against high blood pressure.

For the study, the researchers assigned approximately half of 369 participants over 70 years of age with OSA to receive CPAP therapy for 3 months. To compare both cohorts, the researchers used several metrics, including a subjective measure of a patient’s sleepiness, the effect of CPAP on anxiety and depression, and its effect on blood pressure levels. They also subdivided the results by patients older and younger than 80 years of age.

“Our findings suggest that CPAP treatment is not as effective in patients over 80 years of age with OSA when compared to younger patients,” said senior study author David Gozal, MD, the Marie M. and Harry L. Smith Endowed Chair of Child Health at the MU School of Medicine, in the press release. “We did not see any improvements in OSA-related symptoms, quality-of-life metrics, mood-related symptoms or blood pressure compared to the group that did not receive CPAP treatment.”

Gozal added that in general, patients over 80 years of age have a more sedentary lifestyle, which means they may have other disorders that could affect the quality or quantity of sleep, and cannot be treated with CPAP. He added that prior indicate that patients 80 years of age and older are less likely to remain adherent to CPAP therapy over the long-term.

“Considering the growing population of elderly patients that is being referred for sleep consultation, large clinical trials are urgently needed to try to solve key questions related to the use of CPAP in patients over the age of 75 or 80,” Gozal said in the press release. “Those questions include: What type of elderly patient with OSA will benefit from CPAP? Is CPAP a cost-effective treatment for patients in this age group? And once CPAP treatment is initiated, should it last forever?”


Common sleep apnea treatment may not benefit patients older than 80. University of Missouri School of Medicine. February 9, 2022. Accessed February 10, 2022.

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