Sleep apnea: From the nose to the heart

Michael J. Cutler, Abdul Latif Hamdan, Mohamed H. Hamdan, Karthik Ramaswamy, Michael L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder consisting of repetitive obstruction of the upper airway during sleep accompanied by ineffective respiratory effort. Methods: We developed this clinical review using an extensive MEDLINE review of the literature and data from our laboratories. This review examines (1) the prevalence of OSA; (2) the pathophysiology involved including the causes of obstruction, the physiologic stimuli, and resulting autonomie changes; (3) the cardiovascular manifestations; and (4) the therapeutic approaches to patients with OSA with emphasis on arrhythmia management. Results and Conclusions: OSA is highly prevalent and largely underdiagnosed. As part of a much broader spectrum of respiratory disturbances during sleep, OSA can result in a multitude of systemic manifestations. Structural changes occur in the airway to obstruct airflow during OSA, and the resulting apnea activates hypoxic and hypercapnic reflexes, which in turn lead to profound elevation in sympathetic nerve activity and cyclical changes in parasympathetic nerve activity. These autonomie effects are thought to contribute to the associated cardiovascular diseases (eg, hypertension) and frequently observed brady-and tachyarrhythmias. The ultimate goal in the treatment of OSA is to restore airway patency and sleep continuity and to improve daytime functioning and quality of life. Treatment usually results in improvement of clinical symptoms. (J Am Board Fam Pract 2002;15:128-41.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-141
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2002


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