CPAP Success Rate

Thu, Sep 30, 2010
CPAP is the 'gold standard' for the treatment of severe conditions ... but it's not the only option.What is the success rate of CPAP?

CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressurisation) is the ‘gold standard’ treatment for severe sleep disordered breathing conditions.   This is the form of treatment recommended by The Academy of Sleep Medicine and all leading sleep physicians when patients suffer from conditions such as severe obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). 

CPAP works by gently pushing air into the patient’s airway.  This is achieved by a small and very quiet air pump, connected to a comfortable mask which the patient wears while asleep.   Contrary to common perception, the CPAP system does not ‘breathe’ for the patient.  Instead, the pressurised air simply acts as an ‘air splint’.  That is, the pressurised air is sufficient to gently ‘inflate’ the soft tissue of the upper airway, thus keeping the walls of the airway apart.  It’s a bit like blowing enough air into a long balloon to make the balloon stand erect.  While the walls are held apart, air can move in and out without obstruction.  Without the air pressure holding the walls apart, you can imagine how difficult it would be to inhale through the collapsed walls of the balloon.  This is effectively what happens with obstructive sleep apnoea.  The soft issue of the upper airway collapses onto itself, blocking the flow of air. 

The success rate of CPAP is very high because it resolves this problem by maintaining enough pressure in the upper airway to hold the soft tissues apart.  In general terms it is 100% effective … yet the treatment is NOT always successful. 

That’s because of the ‘compliance’ issue.  In other words, the CPAP success rate is ultimately determined by the patient's preparedness to use it, and some patients simply cannot or will not comply with or tolerate the treatment.  They find the mask too uncomfortable, or intrusive, or indiscreet, or claustrophobic … or something else.  For whatever reason, a significant proportion of patients do not continue with this highly effective form of treatment, and so do not experience and enjoy the profound benefits of successful treatment.

According to some studies, the ‘compliance rate’ is as low as 40% — which obviously means 6 out of every 10 patients are left untreated.  Worse still, many of these patients have invested in a CPAP machine, which then does nothing more than gather dust.

At The Sleep Therapy Clinic we’ve done a few things to resolve this problem.

First, we don’t simply ‘fill a prescription’.  In other words, unlike mere CPAP merchants, we don’t simply sell a CPAP machine and the relevant fittings to patients when they come in with their prescription from the sleep lab / sleep physician.

Instead, we walk and talk each patient through an extended period (typically 5 weeks) of trialling and adjusting to ensure the optimum choice of machine and accessories, and to ensure the patient is fully comfortable with the treatment.  As with most things, CPAP takes a little while to get used to.  (Even a new pillow or mattress feels uncomfortable and unnatural for the first little while.) 

But with one of our CPAP Therapists holding your hand through this early period and helping you choose the best type of mask, strapping, CPAP machine, humidification system, tubing, etc, etc, etc … it becomes much more likely (in fact almost certain) you’ll become fully familiar and comfortable with the treatment by the end of the trial period.

In fact, patients of Sleep Therapy Clinics have a 91% compliance rate — which has been recognised as the best result in all of Queensland. 

The OTHER thing we do to ensure patients get effective treatment for their sleep disordered breathing … is offer a range of treatments.   Unlike other organisations which treat SDB as a ‘sideline’ to a standard medical or dental practice, our clinic focuses exclusively on the treatment of these conditions.  That means we can offer alternatives (such as oral appliance therapy or even surgery) if CPAP is not successful or appropriate.  (Less severe sleep disordered breathing conditions such as snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnoea can often be successfully treated with these other forms of treatment.)

Our range of treatments also means you can be confident of getting the best treatment – because we don’t have a vested interest in promoting one form of treatment over the other.  Our objective is simply to achieve the best possible result for you, so we’ll use whichever form of treatment delivers that result.

If you’d like more information about how CPAP success rates and how The Sleep Therapy Clinic can treat your snoring or sleep apnoea with CPAP, oral appliance therapy or surgical intervention, visit or call 1300 246 637,