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J Clin Sleep Med. 2018 Jun 15;14(6):953-958. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.7158.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment May Improve Optic Nerve Function in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An Electrophysiological Study.

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Sleep Medicine Centre, Neurophysiopathology Unit, Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome "Tor Vergata," Rome, Italy.
Neurology Unit, Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome "Tor Vergata," Rome, Italy.
Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS, Rome, Italy.



Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder frequently associated with optic nerve diseases. Moreover, untreated patients with severe OSA may show optic nerve dysfunction as documented by electrophysiological studies using visual evoked potentials (VEP). Because continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment has proved to restore the physiologic nocturnal breathing, thus preventing nocturnal hypoxemia and reducing inflammation, in this study we tested whether 1-year CPAP treatment may modify VEP responses in patients with severe OSA.


VEP were recorded at baseline and after 1 year of CPAP treatment in 20 patients with severe OSA, divided in two groups on the basis of CPAP adherence, and compared to a healthy control group.


Patients with good adherence to CPAP therapy (CPAP+; n = 10) showed VEP P100 amplitude significantly higher than patients with poor adherence to CPAP therapy (CPAP-; n = 10). Moreover, the CPAP+ group showed VEP responses similar to those in the control group (n = 26). Considering the mean difference of VEP responses between baseline and follow-up, the CPAP+ group showed a significant increase in VEP P100 amplitude and a significant decrease in VEP P100 latency compared to the CPAP- group.


This study documented that CPAP therapy significantly improves VEP in patients with OSA who are adherent to the treatment. We hypothesize that CPAP treatment, minimizing the metabolic, inflammatory and ischemic consequences of OSA, may normalize the altered VEP responses in patients with OSA by restoring and preserving optic nerve function.


CPAP adherence; OSA; VEP amplitude and latency; inflammation; intermittent hypoxemia; optic nerve function

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