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BackgroundThe Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) is a widely used tool for assessing sleepiness in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). We aimed to estimate the minimal important difference (MID) in patients with OSA.MethodsWe used individual data from three randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in patients with OSA where the preintervention to postintervention change in ESS was used as a primary outcome. We used anchor-based linear regression and responder analysis approaches to estimate the MID. For anchors, we used the change in domains of the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey. We also used the distribution-based approaches Cohen's effect size, SE of measurement and empirical rule effect size to support the anchor-based estimates. The final MID was determined by triangulating all estimates to a single MID.FindingsA total of 639 patients with OSA were included in our analyses across the three RCTs with a median (IQR) baseline ESS score of 10 (6-13). The median (IQR) ESS change score overall was -2 (-5 to 1). The anchor-based estimates of the MID were between -1.74 and -4.21 points and estimates from the responder analysis were between -1 and -3 points. Distribution-based estimates were smaller, ranging from -1.46 to -2.36.InterpretationWe propose an MID for the ESS of 2 points in patients with OSA with a disease severity from mild to severe. This estimate provides the means to plan trials and interpret the clinical relevance of changes in ESS.Trial registration numberProvent, NCT01332175; autoCPAP trial, NCT00280800; MOSAIC,ISRCTN (3416388).

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





390 - 396


Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Humans, Sleep Apnea, Obstructive, Treatment Outcome, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, Severity of Illness Index, ROC Curve, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Self Report, Surveys and Questionnaires, Sleepiness