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Strategies to Assess the Effect of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure on Long-Term Clinically Important Outcomes among Patients with Symptomatic Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An Official American Thoracic Society Workshop Report.
Donovan LM, Hoyos CM, Kimoff RJ, Morrell MJ, Bosch NA, Chooljian DM, McEvoy RD, Sawyer AM, Wagner TH, Al-Lamee RR, Bishop D, Carno MA, Epstein M, Hanson M, Ip MSM, Létourneau M, Pamidi S, Patel SR, Pépin JL, Punjabi NM, Redline S, Thornton JD, Patil SP. Strategies to Assess the Effect of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure on Long-Term Clinically Important Outcomes among Patients with Symptomatic Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An Official American Thoracic Society Workshop Report. Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2023 Jul 1; 20(7):931-943.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the first-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Although CPAP improves symptoms (e.g., daytime sleepiness), there is a lack of high-quality evidence that CPAP prevents many long-term outcomes, including cognitive impairment, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Observational studies suggest that patients with symptoms may be particularly likely to experience these preventive benefits with CPAP, but ethical and practical concerns limited the participation of such patients in prior long-term randomized trials. As a result, there is uncertainty about the full benefits of CPAP, and resolving this uncertainty is a key priority for the field. This workshop assembled clinicians, researchers, ethicists, and patients to identify strategies to understand the causal effects of CPAP on long-term clinically important outcomes among patients with symptomatic OSA. Quasi-experimental designs can provide valuable information and are less time and resource intensive than trials. Under specific conditions and assumptions, quasi-experimental studies may be able to provide causal estimates of CPAP''s effectiveness from generalizable observational cohorts. However, randomized trials represent the most reliable approach to understanding the causal effects of CPAP among patients with symptoms. Randomized trials of CPAP can ethically include patients with symptomatic OSA, as long as there is outcome-specific equipoise, adequate informed consent, and a plan to maximize safety while minimizing harm (e.g., monitoring for pathologic sleepiness). Furthermore, multiple strategies exist to ensure the generalizability and practicality of future randomized trials of CPAP. These strategies include reducing the burden of trial procedures, improving patient-centeredness, and engaging historically excluded and underserved populations.