Improving Sleep Apnea Helps With Stroke Recovery

NeuroRehab Team
Thursday, December 26th, 2019

Sleep Apnea is a known risk factor for stroke and new research suggests that curbing the condition might also aid the recovery of people who’ve suffered a stroke or mini-stroke. New research shows that, among stroke patients, “treatment of sleep apnea with CPAP therapy provides significant benefits, even greater than the benefits of tPA, the FDA-approved drug treatment for stroke,” said study lead researcher Dr. Dawn Bravata.

According to the researchers, sleep apnea is common among people who’ve had a stroke or mini-stroke, but few are currently diagnosed and treated for the condition. It’s estimated that two out of three stroke patients are thought to have the condition, which causes irregular breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to low oxygen levels, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.


In a new study by Bravata, they tracked outcomes for 252 people who had experienced a stroke or mini-stroke (known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA) for up to one year. Patients were treated at one of five different hospitals in two states. The patients were randomly divided into three groups: a control group who received standard care without sleep apnea treatment; standard care plus CPAP therapy; or enhanced care with CPAP therapy. Patients who used CPAP did so for an average of 50 percent of nights.

The researchers reported that 59 percent of patients who received CPAP therapy showed marked improvement in their recovery, in terms of improvements in neurological symptoms. This compared with 38 percent of those who didn’t get CPAP. According to Dr. Bravata, “Preliminary data suggests the sooner you treat sleep apnea in stroke patients with CPAP, the more potent the effect of that treatment.”


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