BACKGROUND: The 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. METHODS: We 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.
FINDINGS: A 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.
INTERPRETATION: We 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.