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New study finds sleep apnea treatment can reduce hospital readmissions

By Amelia Willson | 2 Minute Read

Health care is expensive for everyone involved, from the patient and their family to healthcare providers and insurance companies. Besides the expense, no one wants to be in poor health. One big drain on healthcare is 30-day hospital readmissions, which are used as an indicator of hospital quality.

A recent study, published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, suggests one simple solution that could significantly reduce hospital readmissions among patients with sleep apnea: adhere to their CPAP treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic sleep disorder where the individual stops breathing momentarily during sleep, due to a blockage or collapse of the upper airways. When this happens, it reduces the amount of oxygen in their blood, and it also interferes with the quality of their sleep, causing snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness. As a result, people with OSA are prone to suffer from other health issues like related to sleep deprivation like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Health experts estimate 30 million American adults have OSA.

Fortunately, there is treatment! CPAP therapy is the leading treatment for SA, and it’s extremely effective – except when patients don’t stick to their treatment. CPAP therapy requires an individual to wear a mask that delivers air pressure to keep their airways open while they sleep. Unfortunately, because many patients find the masks uncomfortable to sleep with, they don’t adhere to treatment on a daily basis as recommended.

Not only does this allow their sleep apnea symptoms to persist, but it makes patients three times likelier to be readmitted to the hospital for any cause within a 30-day period, according to the new study titled “Nonadherence to CPAP Associated With Increased 30-Day Hospital Readmissions.”

The study’s authors sought out to see whether non-adherence to their CPAP therapy had any effect on hospital readmissions among individuals with sleep apnea. The study involved 345 mostly male patients with severe OSA who were hospitalized at a Veterans Affairs hospital. Researchers compared the health of those who adhered to their CPAP therapy against those who didn’t.

The study found that the patients who didn’t adhere to their CPAP treatment were over three times more likely to be readmitted for any reason, and twice as likely to be readmitted for cardiovascular reasons like congestive heart failure. Before this study, no one had observed where CPAP could be an independent factor in hospital readmissions.

“This study carries important implications as it suggests that CPAP therapy may be an important, modifiable target for reducing hospital readmissions,” said lead author Dr. Behrouz Jafari.

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