Sleep apnea treatment options


There are a variety of treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), each of which has varying levels of effectiveness. Read on to learn more, and for help deciding which option is best for your patient.

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is widely regarded as the most effective way to treat OSA and certain types of central sleep apnea (CSA). It works by creating a "pneumatic splint" for the upper airway, preventing the soft tissues of the upper airway from narrowing and collapsing. Pressurized air is generated by a therapy device and sent through air tubing to a mask worn over a patient's face.

CPAP, APAP and bilevel therapy

Positive airway pressure therapy can be delivered in a number of modes:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) delivers pressurized air at a single, or continuous, fixed pressure.
  • Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) automatically adjusts pressure levels based on a patient’s breathing. APAP may be particularly well suited to patients with REM-related sleep apnea, positional apnea or those who are noncompliant with standard CPAP therapy.
  • Bilevel therapy provides higher inspiratory pressure and lower expiratory pressur and can be effective for sleep apnea patients who are noncompliant with CPAP therapy. Bilevel therapy can also be used to treat conditions other than OSA and is the first line of treatment for a wide range of respiratory disorders.

Alternative treatment options

A mandibular repositioning device (MRD) is also an effective alternative to PAP therapy for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. ResMed’s Narval™ CC is the first MRD that's manufactured using CAD/CAM technology, ensuring the absolute best fit for patients and a high rate of compliance.

Surgery is also an option for treating sleep apnea, but as with all surgeries, it has associated risks. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), the most commonly performed surgical procedure for OSA in the U.S., is a treatment option with a somewhat low rate of success.


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    Benjafield A et al. ResMed Science Center 2010

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