Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea

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Obstructive and central sleep apnea are far more common in heart failure patients than in the general population and their presence might contribute to the progression of heart failure by exposing the heart to intermittent hypoxia, increased preload and afterload, sympathetic nervous system activation, and vascular endothelial dysfunction. There is now substantial evidence that supports a role for fluid overload and nocturnal rostral fluid shift from the legs as unifying mechanisms in the pathogenesis of obstructive and central sleep apnea in heart failure patients, such that the predominant type of sleep apnea is related to the relative distribution of fluid from the leg to the neck and chest. Despite advances in therapies for heart failure, mortality rates remain high. Accordingly, the identification and treatment of sleep apnea in patients with heart failure might offer a novel therapeutic target to modulate this increased risk. In heart failure patients with obstructive or central sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure has been shown to improve cardiovascular function in short-term trials but this has not translated to improved mortality or reduced hospital admissions in long-term randomized trials. Other forms of positive airway pressure such as adaptive servoventilation have shown promising results in terms of attenuation of sleep apnea and improvement in cardiovascular function in short-term trials. Large scale, randomized trials are required to determine whether treating sleep apnea with various interventions can reduce morbidity and mortality.




Lyons, O. D., & Bradley, T. D. (2015, July 1). Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea. Canadian Journal of Cardiology. Pulsus Group Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2015.04.017

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