Ambulatory blood pressure after therapeutic and subtherapeutic nasal continuous positive airway pressure for obstructive sleep apnoea: a randomised parallel trial

Lancet. 2002 Jan 19;359(9302):204-10. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(02)07445-7.


Background: Obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with raised blood pressure. If blood pressure can be reduced by nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP), such treatment could reduce risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Our aim was to see whether nCPAP for sleep apnoea reduces blood pressure compared with the most robust control intervention subtherapeutic nCPAP.

Methods: We did a randomised parallel trial to compare change in blood pressure in 118 men with obstructive sleep apnoea (Epworth score > 9, and a > 4% oxygen desaturation index of > 10 per h) who were assigned to either therapeutic (n=59) or subtherapeutic (59) nCPAP (about 1 cm H(2)O pressure) for 1 month. The primary outcome was the change in 24-h mean blood pressure. Secondary outcomes were changes in systolic, diastolic, sleep, and wake blood pressure, and relations between blood pressure changes, baseline blood pressure, and severity of sleep apnoea.

Findings: Therapeutic nCPAP reduced mean arterial ambulatory blood pressure by 2.5 mm Hg (SE 0.8), whereas subtherapeutic nCPAP increased blood pressure by 0.8 mm Hg (0.7) (difference -3.3 [95% CI -5.3 to -1.3]; p=0.0013, unpaired t test). This benefit was seen in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and during both sleep and wake. The benefit was larger in patients with more severe sleep apnoea than those who had less severe apnoea, but was independent of the baseline blood pressure. The benefit was especially large in patients taking drug treatment for blood pressure.

Interpretation: In patients with most severe sleep apnoea, nCPAP reduces blood pressure, providing significant vascular risk benefits, and substantially improving excessive daytime sleepiness and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / blood
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Sleep Stages


  • Oxygen