Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that symptoms in patients with obstructive sleep apnea and hypopnea can be significantly reduced through treatment with nasal insufflation (TNI), using a nasal cannula to deliver warm, humidified air at a high flow rate.

“Our findings provide evidence that TNI may offer a viable treatment alternative to patients with obstructive hypopneas and apneas,” said lead researcher Hartmut Schneider, MD, of Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center.

Furthermore, the results showed that even patients with more severe disorders gained significantly from TNI. “Although we expected marked improvements in the apnea-plus-hypopnea index (AHI) primarily in patients with hypopneas rather than obstructive apneas, TNI lowered the AHI in all subjects,” the researchers wrote.

These findings suggest that TNI might be a more viable treatment option for patients with hypopnea and sleep apnea. “Current treatment options…are often intrusive or invasive and not well-tolerated, leaving a vast number of patients untreated,” said Dr. Schneider.

The present study is a proof of concept, the authors wrote, and will require replication in clinical trials. However, the study represents the first step in developing a new potential alternative to current sleep apnea treatments that may lower the barrier for care in patients with sleep-associated breathing disorders.