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Sleep Breath. 2019 Jul 20. doi: 10.1007/s11325-019-01897-1. [Epub ahead of print]

Prevalence and characteristics of positional obstructive sleep apnea (POSA) in patients with severe OSA.

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Sleep Disorders Unit, Loewenstein Hospital-Rehabilitation Center, Raanana, Israel.
Sleep Disorders Unit, Loewenstein Hospital-Rehabilitation Center, Raanana, Israel.
Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Diagnostic Imaging Center, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.
School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.



We assessed the prevalence of positional patients (PPs) and the main predictors of positional dependency in severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A simulated effect of positional therapy (PT) vs. continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) was also assessed.


Polysomnographic recordings of 292 consecutive patients with severe OSA (Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) ≥ 30) who slept > 4 h and had ≥ 30 min sleep in both supine and lateral positions were assessed. PPs were defined to have a supine AHI/lateral AHI ratio ≥ two and non-positional patients (NPPs) a supine AHI/lateral AHI ratio < two.


A total of 35.3% of the severe OSA patients were PPs. They were less obese and had less severe OSA (p < 0.001) compared with NPPs. The percentage of total apnea-hypopnea time from total sleep time (AHT%) was the most significant predictor for positional dependency. By sleeping in the lateral posture (i.e. after simulated PT), 78 (75.7%) PPs obtained significant improvement of their OSA severity and 9 (8.7%) of them became "non-OSA". Moreover, if CPAP was used only for 50% of total sleep time, 53 patients (18.2%) gained more benefit from avoiding the supine posture than from CPAP therapy.


More than a third of the studied severe OSA patients were PPs. These patients could achieve a significant decrease in the number and severity of apneas and hypopneas by adopting the lateral posture, suggesting that PT may be a valuable therapy for a significant portion of these severe OSA patients who for whatever reason are not being treated by CPAP.

TRIAL REGISTRY: Identifier: NCT03232658.


Lateral position; OSA treatment; Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); Positional patients; Positional therapy; Severe OSA patients; Supine posture


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