Comparison of three measures of quality of life outcome in the evaluation of continuous positive airways pressure therapy for sleep apnoea


C. Jenkinson Health Services Research Unit, University of Oxford, Institute of Health Sciences, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK.


Treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) has become a standard treatment since its introduction in 1981. Following such treatment the apnoeas disappear, sleep quality improves as apparently do daytime symptoms of sleepiness. Sleepiness is an unusual symptom and its impact on conventional indices of quality of life has rarely been measured. To allow comparison of NCPAP therapy with treatments for other conditions, measurements of quality of life before and after treatment using standard techniques are required. It is not clear which of the standard measures is most suited to measuring the health gain from nasal NCPAP, and indeed whether the disability of excessive sleepiness is included in all such measures. This study looks at three well recognized quality of life measures in OSA, before and after NCPAP therapy; the Short Form 36 (SF-36), Functional Limitations Profile (FLP), and the EuroQol (EQ-5D). The results were compared with data from normal populations. One hundred and eight patients with OSA undergoing a therapeutic assessment of NCPAP completed the three quality of life questionnaires before and 5 weeks after commencing treatment. Over 90 subjects completed all sections of the three measures on both occasions. The SF-36 revealed substantial adverse effects on subjective health of OSA and that NCPAP treatment produced dramatic positive effects. For example, the effect sizes (difference in score, divided by SD of baseline score) in the Energy/Vitality dimension was 0.98 and for the overall Mental and Physical Component Scores, 0.76 and 0.57, respectively: an effect size over 0.5 is considered moderate and over 0.8 as large. The FLP data showed similar pre treatment decrements in quality of life and substantial improvements following NCPAP. The changes with treatment in the majority of the dimensions from both the SF-36 and FLP were statistically significant (P<0.01). In contrast the EQ-5D did not show significant improvements with therapy, presumably because of its failure to measure the aspects of quality of life related to severe sleep fragmentation and daytime sleepiness. In conclusion, this study has clearly shown considerable decrements in quality of life in patients with OSA, similar to other chronic disabling conditions. Furthermore, NCPAP therapy returns patients to a quality of life similar to the normal population.