UK researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) appears to be characterized by endothelial dysfunction and impaired myocardial perfusion and that these abnormalities can be reversed by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment.

Using myocardial contrast echocardiography, Dr Mehmood Butt (University of Birmingham Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences, UK) and colleagues assessed the myocardial perfusion of 36 otherwise healthy sleep-apnea patients and compared the findings with those from 36 hypertensive subjects and 36 healthy individuals. They also measured endothelial function using a variety of techniques, they report online July 11, 2011 in Hypertension.

Those with OSA and hypertension had abnormal myocardial perfusion (p<0.001 for both comparisons), attenuated brachial artery reactivity (p<0.001), and cutaneous perfusion responses (p<0.001) compared with the healthy subjects, but they showed significant improvements in all of these parameters after 26 weeks of CPAP therapy.

Because this was an open study and all the sleep-apnea patients received CPAP, proper randomized studies will be needed to confirm the benefit of this intervention on the endothelium, says senior author Dr Gregory Lip (University of Birmingham Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences).

But he hopes the work will bring greater awareness of the relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. “The condition can be treated, and it is important that clinicians look out for it,” Lip comments in an AHA statement.

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Filed under: Cardiovascular DiseaseClinical ResearchHypertensionObstructive Sleep ApneaSleepSleep ApneaSleep Apnea EffectsSleep Apnea ResearchSleep Apnea StudySleep Apnea TreatmentSleep Problems

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