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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 Oct 18;(4):CD003531.

Interventions to improve compliance with continuous positive airway pressure for obstructive sleep apnoea.

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  • 1Dept of Dermatology, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, NE1 4LP.



Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) is currently considered to be the cornerstone of therapy for sleep apnoea (OSA). However compliance with this treatment is frequently poor, which may lead to ongoing symptoms of sleep disruption, daytime sleepiness and poor waking cognitive function. Mechanical and psychological/educational interventions have been proposed to try to increase the hours of use of CPAP therapy.


To determine the efficacy of interventions designed to increase compliance with CPAP.


We searched the Cochrane Airways Group Sleep Apnoea Specialised Register (January 2004).


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing interventions to improve compliance with CPAP usage were considered for inclusion in the review.


Two reviewers assessed articles for inclusion in the review and extracted data. Attempts were made to obtain additional unpublished data from the trialists.


24 studies met the inclusion criteria with 1007 participants. Each of the mechanical interventions was compared with fixed CPAP alone. Auto-CPAP (13 studies): A small, significant difference was observed in compliance but this effect disappeared when we took account of the variation between the studies. There may be a subgroup of patients who respond better than others. Most participants preferred auto-CPAP to fixed CPAP where this was measured. Bi-level PAP (3 studies): No significant differences were observed in compliance. One small study found no difference in preference. Patient titrated CPAP (1 study): No significant difference was observed in compliance. Humidification(1 study): This small study found no significant difference in compliance. Educational/psychological interventions (6 studies): One small study demonstrated superior compliance in patients treated with cognitive behavioural therapy + CPAP versus CPAP alone but only after 12 weeks. In one, larger study intensive support including home visits increased hours of use. No other study demonstrated significant effects in favour of active treatment.


The effect of Auto-CPAP in increasing hours of use in unselected patients starting this treatment remains unclear. Different pooled analyses gave conflicting results and it may be that carefully selected participants may respond more favourably than others. The evidence in support of Bi-PAP, self-titration and humidification is lacking and studies are required in these areas. There is some evidence that psychological/educational interventions improve CPAP usage. This requires confirmation in larger studies of longer duration, with rigorous follow-up. The cost-benefit ratio of such interventions requires assessment. Future studies need to consider the effects of treatment in participants who are poorly compliant. The studies assembled were characterised by high machine usage in the control groups, and low withdrawal rates making it less likely that any benefit could be demonstrated.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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