Effect of improved nasal breathing on obstructive sleep apnea

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Jan;122(1):71-4. doi: 10.1016/S0194-5998(00)70147-1.


Objectives: The goal was to compare the effect of an improved nasal airway on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by use of subjective and objective measures.

Methods: A prospective study of 50 consecutive patients with nasal airway obstruction and OSA was carried out.

Results: Subjectively, nasal breathing improved in 49 (98%) patients, whereas snoring decreased or disappeared in 17 (34%); the remaining 33 (66%) patients did not notice any significant change in their snoring. Daytime energy levels increased in 39 (78%) patients and remained unchanged or worsened in 11 (22%). In review of the polysomnographic data, the group overall did not have significant changes in respiratory disturbance index (RDI) or lowest oxygen saturation levels (LSaO(2)). Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) levels required to correct OSA decreased after nasal surgery (P < 0.01). Patients with mild OSA showed significant worsening in RDI (P < 0.05), whereas LSaO(2) levels were improved in the group with moderate OSA (P < 0.05). In patients with severe OSA neither the RDI levels nor the LSaO(2) changed, but CPAP levels required to alleviate the obstruction after surgery were reduced (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Most patients report improvement in nasal and sleep symptoms after correction of nasal airway obstruction. However, nasal surgery alone does not consistently improve OSA when measured objectively. Depending on the severity of OSA, nasal airway reconstruction may contribute to a decrease in CPAP level and improvement in oxygen saturation. Correction of the obstructed nasal airway should certainly be included in the overall treatment plan for OSA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Obstruction / complications
  • Nasal Obstruction / surgery*
  • Nose
  • Polysomnography
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Snoring / complications
  • Snoring / physiopathology