Patients who are diagnosed with severe OSA are universally recommended for CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) therapy.
This therapy was developed in 1981 by Dr. Collin Sullivan in Sydney, Australia, and today it is a multi-billion dollar business. CPAP can eliminate OSA in almost 100% of cases.
The CPAP machine consists of a face mask that generally covers the nose and a pump. It works by pushing constant air pressure through the nose and into the throat. The pressure works to push back the tongue, soft palate or other tissues that are obstructing the airway. The pressure is constant, so a CPAP user cannot breathe through their mouth or the air will blow out. They also must become trained to exhale against the pressure because it is constant.While CPAP can be very effective, it is unfortunately uncomfortable to wear and even despite efforts to improve mask and machine technology, compliance remains very poor by patients. Numerous studies have shown that between 50% and 80% of patients prescribed CPAP are intolerant and stop treatment altogether.
Here is a video from the Harvard Medical School that features basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neil, his diagnosis of sleep apnea and use of a CPAP machine.