Although nasal surgery has limited efficacy in obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) treatment, some patients experience improvement. The present study tested the hypothesis that post-surgery improvement is associated with increased nasal breathing epochs.

A total of 49 OSA patients (mean apnoea/hypopnoea index (AHI) 30.1±16.3 events·h−1) with symptomatic fixed nasal obstruction due to deviated septum were randomly assigned to either septoplasty (surgery group; 27 patients) or sham surgery (placebo group; 22 patients). The breathing route was examined during overnight polysomnography.

All patients in the placebo group were nonresponders, whereas in the surgery group four (14.8%) patients were responders and exhibited considerable increase in nasal breathing epochs (epochs containing more than three consecutive phasic nasal signals), and 23 patients were nonresponders, presenting a modest increase in nasal breathing epochs. The change in AHI was inversely related to the change in nasal breathing epochs, with responders exhibiting among the greatest increases in nasal breathing epochs. Baseline nasal breathing epochs were positively related to per cent change in AHI. Responders had among the lowest baseline nasal breathing epochs; a cut-off value of 62.4% of total sleep epochs best separated (100% sensitivity, 82.6% specificity) responders/nonresponders.

In conclusion, nasal surgery rarely treats obstructive sleep apnoea effectively. Baseline nasal breathing epochs can predict the surgery outcome.


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