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Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) of the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is used empirically for the treatment of rhinitis and snoring and is thought to increase pharyngeal stability. This trial was designed to study the effects of this treatment on pharyngeal stability evaluated by critical closing pressure in obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.
This single-centre, randomized, crossover, double-blind study compared active manipulation and sham manipulation of the SPG. Randomization was computer-generated. Patients each received one active manipulation and one sham manipulation at an interval of 21 days and were evaluated 30 min and 48 h after each session administered by a qualified osteopath. Neither the patients, nor the investigator performing the evaluations were informed about the order of the two techniques (double-blind). The primary endpoint was the percentage of responding patients presenting increased pharyngeal stability defined by a variation of critical closing pressure (Pcrit) of at least −4 cmH2O at 30 min. Secondary endpoints were the variation of Pcrit in absolute values, sleepiness and snoring. Others endpoints were lacrimation (Schirmer’s test), induced pain, sensations experienced during OMT.
Ten patients were included and nine (57 [50; 58] years, comprising 7 men, with an apnoea-hypopnoea index of 31.0 [25.5; 33.2]/h; (values are median [quartiles])) were analysed. Seven patients were analysed for the primary endpoint and nine patients were analysed for secondary endpoints. Five patients responded after active manipulation versus no patients after sham manipulation (p = 0.0209). Active manipulation induced more intense pain (p = 0.0089), increased lacrimation (ns) and more tactile, nociceptive and gustatory sensations (13 versus 1) compared to sham manipulation. No significant difference was observed for the other endpoints.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment of the SPG may improve pharyngeal stability in obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. This trial validates the feasibility of the randomized, controlled, double-blind methodology for evaluation of this osteopathic treatment. Studies on a larger sample size must specify the efficacy on the apnoea-hypopnoea index.
The study was retrospectively registered in the clinicaltrial.gov registry under reference NCT01193738 on 1st September 2010 (first inclusion May 19, 2010).