Background: New approaches are needed to treat patients with stroke. Among acute ischemic stroke patients, our primary objectives were to describe the prevalence of sleep apnea and demonstrate the feasibility of providing auto-titrating continuous positive airway pressure (auto-CPAP). A secondary objective was to examine the effect of auto-CPAP on stroke severity.
Methods: Stroke patients randomized to the intervention group received 2 nights of auto-CPAP, but only those with evidence of sleep apnea received auto-CPAP for the remainder of the 30-day period. Intervention patients received polysomnography 30 days post-stroke. Control patients received polysomnography at baseline and after 30 days. Acceptable auto-CPAP adherence was defined as ≥ 4 h/night for ≥ 75% nights. Change in stroke severity was assessed comparing the NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS) at baseline versus at 30 days.
Results: The 2 groups (intervention N = 31, control N = 24) had similar baseline stroke severity (both median NIHSS, 3.0). Among patients with complete polysomnography data, the majority had sleep apnea: baseline, 13/15 (86.7%) control patients; 30 days, 24/35 (68.6%) control and intervention patients. Intervention patients had greater improvements in NIHSS (-3.0) than control patients (-1.0); P = 0.03. Among patients with sleep apnea, greater improvement was observed with increasing auto-CPAP use: -1.0 for control patients not using auto-CPAP; -2.5 for intervention patients with some auto-CPAP use; and -3.0 for intervention patients with acceptable auto-CPAP adherence.
Conclusions: The majority of acute stroke patients had sleep apnea. Auto-CPAP was well tolerated, appears to improve neurological recovery from stroke, and may represent a new therapeutic approach for selected patients with acute cerebral infarction.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00368628.
Keywords: Acute ischemic stroke; continuous positive airway pressure; sleep apnea.