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Obstructive Sleep Apnea. SS Visser Lung Unit PAH and UP. Contents. Definition Pathogenesis Pathophysiology Clinical Features Treatment. Introduction. Sleep apnea is the intermittent cessation of airflow at the nose and mouth during sleep.

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obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

SS Visser

Lung Unit

PAH and UP

  • Definition
  • Pathogenesis
  • Pathophysiology
  • Clinical Features
  • Treatment
  • Sleep apnea is the intermittent cessation of airflow at the nose and mouth during sleep.
  • Apneas of at least 10 s duration are important but in most cases the apneas last 20-30 s and can last as long as 2-3 min.
  • Sleep apnea is a leading cause of daytime sleepiness and contributes to CVS disorders.
  • Prevalence: 2% in middle-aged women and 4% in middle-aged men

Sleep apneas are divided into:

  • Central sleep apnea: neural drive to all respiratory muscles is abolished
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: airflow ceases despite continuing respiratory drive because of occlusion of the oropharyngeal airway.
  • Occlusion of the oropharyngeal airway results in progressive asphyxia until there is a brief arousal from sleep, whereupon airway patency is restored and airflow resumes.
  • The patient then returns to sleep and the process is repeated, up to 300-400 x per night – sleep becomes fragmented.
The immediated factor leading to collapse of the upper airway is generation of subatmospheric pressure during inspiration and which exceeds ability of airway dilator and abductor muscles to maintain airway stability.
  • During wakefulness upper airway muscle activity is greater than normal to compensate for airway narrowing and high airway resistance
  • Alcohol is a co-factor – has a depressant effect on airway muscles and the arousal response that terminates each apnea
Structural abnormalities:
  • Oropharyngeal airway may predispose to closure ( short neck)
  • Structural compromise may be due to anatomic disturbances such as tonsillar hypertrophy, retrognathia and macroglossia.
  • In the majority there is only subtle reduction in airway size which can be described as “crowding”
  • Obesity may contribute to reduction in upper airway size by  fat deposition in the soft tissues of the pharynx or by compressing the pharynx by superficial fat masses in the neck.
  • The airway may also have high compliance – “floppy” and be prone to collapse.
Clinical Features:
  • Snoring:may antedate OSA by several years

Snoring in the absence of other symtoms, does not warrant investigation for OSA but counceling re alcohol and weight gain is required.

  • Recurrent bouts of asphyxiation and arousal lead to clinical complications:
  • cognitive and behavioural disturbances, excessive daytime sleepiness, intellectual impairment, memory loss and personality changes.
  • Cardiorespiratory: LV afterload, cyclical bradycardia (30-50/min) during apnea and tachycardia (90-120/min) during ventilation. Sudden death during sleep may occur.
Systemic BP fails to decrease during sleep – BP increases at termination of each apnea due to sympathetic nerve activation and reflex vasoconstriction – 50% of OSA pts have systemic HT and OSA is an independent risk factor for developing Systemic HT.

OSA may precipitate myocardial ischaemia in patients with coronary artery disease.

In patients with congestive heart failure, OSA may acutely or chronically depress LV function

  • Clinical:typical patient is male, 30-60y, snores, has daytime sleepiness, nocturnal choking or gasping, witnessed apneas during sleep, moderate obesity and large neck circumference and mild to moderate hypertension.
  • Women with OSA are postmenopausal, snoring is less frequent and daytime fatigue is more common than outright sleepiness.
diagnostic tests
Diagnostic tests
  • Polysomnography = a detailed overnight sleep study with recordings of:

ECG (arrythmias), EEG (brain waves – level of sleep ), EOG (eye movements – REM sleep) and submental EMG (muscle twitches - REM sleep)to evaluate sleep

Ventilatory variables: movement of chest wall and airflow at the mouth and nose

Arterial O2 saturation (finger/ear oximetry)

Heart rate

  • Episodes of airflow cessation or reduction at the nose and mouth despite continuing respiratory effort ( chest wall movement) are diagnostic of OSA.
  • Test is expensive and time consuming – at home overnight monitoring of arterial O2 saturation can confirm OSA if episodes of desaturation (10-15/hour) are found – can  need for PSG by 1/3.
  • When negative, polysomnography is indicated
  •  upper airway resistance during sleep may be associated with arousals in the absence of apneas or hypopneas and can still result in clinically important sleep-related syndromes.
severe osa
Severe OSA
  • Significant daytime sleepiness
  • >30 obstructive events and arousals per hour of sleep
  • upper airway muscle tone: mild OSA – avoid alcohol and sedatives
  • upper airway lumen size: 1.Mild to moderate OSA –weight reduction, avoid supine position and use oral prosthesis to keep airway patent

2.Severe OSA: Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

  • upper airway subathmospheric pressure: 1.mild to moderate OSA – improve nasal patency;
  • 2.severe OSA – nasal CPAP
  • Bypass occlusion: severe OSA - tracheotomy