CPAP Therapy Helps Reduce Surgical Complications

(HealthDay News) — Screening and treating patients for sleep apnea prior to surgery can cut their risk of cardiovascular complications by more than half, according to a study published in Anesthesiology.

The study included more than 4,200 patients who were diagnosed with sleep apnea either before or after they had surgery, and a group of patients without sleep apnea. Patients diagnosed with sleep apnea before surgery were prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

The researchers found that patients with untreated sleep apnea were at increased risk for cardiovascular complications such as cardiac arrest or shock, while those who began CPAP therapy before surgery were less than half as likely to develop such complications. 

In addition, patients with sleep apnea were twice as likely to have surgery-related respiratory complications as those without sleep apnea, and CPAP therapy did not reduce that risk. While the study found an association between untreated sleep apnea and surgical complications, it didn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects millions and is associated with an increased risk of surgical complications, but the condition often goes unrecognized,” study lead author Thomas Mutter, M.D., of the department of anesthesia and perioperative medicine at the University of Manitoba in Canada, said in a journal news release. 

One-quarter of surgical patients may have obstructive sleep apnea, but the vast majority of these patients aren’t treated or don’t know they have the disorder, he added.


  1. Mutter TC et al. Anesthesiology. 2014;doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000407