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Volume 14 No. 07
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Positive Airway Pressure Therapy Is Challenging for Patients With Epilepsy

Véronique Latreille, PhD; Ellen J. Bubrick, MD; Milena Pavlova, MD
Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

Study Objectives:

To investigate whether patients with epilepsy and comorbid obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more likely to be nonadherent to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy than adults with OSA but without epilepsy.


This retrospective study included patients with epilepsy diagnosed with OSA and age-, sex-, and apnea-hypopnea index (AHI)-matched controls with OSA but without epilepsy who started PAP treatment between February 2014 and August 2017. Subjects' adherence to PAP therapy was continuously recorded electronically, and comparisons were made at 1 month, 3 months, and 1 year following PAP initiation. Predictors to poor adherence were also evaluated.


Patients with epilepsy (n = 23) were less adherent to PAP than controls (n = 23) during the first month of treatment (13% versus 78%, P = .03). During this first month, average PAP use was lower in patients with epilepsy (4.7 ± 2.1 hours) relative to controls (6.1 ± 1.2 hours, P = .03). Despite sustained PAP treatment, patients with epilepsy had a greater residual AHI and were five times more likely than controls to have residual apnea events above normal range at 3-month and 1-year follow-up. However, no clinical characteristics could significantly predict poor adherence in patients.


Patients with epilepsy are less likely to be adherent to PAP therapy during the first month of treatment, as compared to adults with OSA but no epilepsy. Moreover, PAP therapy could not sufficiently reduce AHI in up to 72% of patients. These findings highlight the need for careful monitoring of PAP treatment in patients with epilepsy, as untreated OSA may worsen seizure burden.


Latreille V, Bubrick EJ, Pavlova M. Positive airway pressure therapy is challenging for patients with epilepsy. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(7):1153–1159.

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