Trends in CPAP adherence over twenty years of data collection: a flattened curve

J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016 Aug 19;45(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s40463-016-0156-0.


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder, and continuous airway positive pressure (CPAP) is considered to be the gold standard of therapy. CPAP however is known to have problems with adherence, with many patients eventually abandoning the device. The purpose of this paper is to assess secular trends in CPAP adherence over the long term to see if there have been meaningful improvements in adherence in light of the multiple interventions proposed to do so.

Methods: A comprehensive systematic literature review was conducted using the Medline-Ovid, Embase, and Pubmed databases, searching for data regarding CPAP adherence over a twenty year timeframe (1994-2015). Data was assessed for quality and then extracted. The main outcome measure was reported CPAP non-adherence. Secondary outcomes included changes in CPAP non-adherence when comparing short versus long-term, and changes in terms of behavioral counseling.

Results: Eighty-two papers met study inclusion/exclusion criteria. The overall CPAP non-adherence rate based on a 7-h/night sleep time that was reported in studies conducted over the twenty year time frame was 34.1 %. There was no significant improvement over the time frame. Behavioral intervention improved adherence rates by ~1 h per night on average.

Conclusions: The rate of CPAP adherence remains persistently low over twenty years worth of reported data. No clinically significant improvement in CPAP adherence was seen even in recent years despite efforts toward behavioral intervention and patient coaching. This low rate of adherence is problematic, and calls into question the concept of CPAP as gold-standard of therapy for OSA.

Keywords: Adherence; CPAP; Obstructive sleep apnea; Uvuloplataopharyngoplasty.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / statistics & numerical data
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / trends*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*