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Patients with Mild Sleep Apnea Benefit from CPAP Therapy

New York, NY –May 5, 2020 – Individuals with mild sleep apnea participating in the MERGE study, a multi-center UK-based clinical trial, were shown to benefit from using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The study was posted online in the Abstract Issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (Abstract #7903. Title:  The MERGE Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial:  Effect of Continuous Positive Airway Press on Vitality in Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea).

CPAP is the treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but it has not been clear whether CPAP should be used for patients with mild OSA.

MERGE researchers randomized 233 patients with mild OSA (which was classified according to 2012 American Academy of Sleep Medicine criteria) at 11 sleep centers across the UK.  Study participants either received CPAP therapy and sleep hygiene counseling, or the counseling alone.  They were treated for three months, and given the Vitality quality-of-life questionnaire, which measures functional health and well-being from the patient’s point of view.    The research team also looked at sleepiness, fatigue, functionality, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

“The most significant finding of the MERGE trial is that three months of CPAP treatment improved the quality of life in patients with mild OSA,” said MERGE Chief Investigator Mary Morell, PhD, professor of sleep and respiratory medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Imperial College London.  “Our results highlight the need for health care professionals and providers to consider treatment for mild OSA, specifically for those with symptoms.”

The research abstract below contains details of the study’s findings, as well as more detail on its methodology.

“We were surprised that even those patients at the very mildest end of the disease spectrum gained benefit from CPAP treatment,” said abstract first author Julia Kelly, PhD, clinical research physiotherapist of the Clinical and Academic Unit of Sleep & Breathing, NHLI, Royal Brompton Hospital, London.  “These were patients who would not have been diagnosed with OSA using the standard diagnostic criteria.”

The study also showed important reductions in sleepiness, and improvements in fatigue and depression for patients treated with CPAP.

The MERGE trial was funded by ResMed Ltd.