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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2011 Apr;37(3):280-97. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1273092. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

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  • 1Sezione di Medicina interna C, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Chirurgiche, Universit√† di Verona, Verona, Italy.


Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent episodes of partial or complete upper airway collapse and obstruction during sleep, associated with intermittent oxygen desaturation, sleep fragmentation, and symptoms of disruptive snoring and daytime sleepiness. Increasing focus is being placed on the relationship between OSAS and all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related mortality, but it still largely unclear whether this association is causative or simply speculative and epidemiological. Basically, reliable clinical evidence supports the hypothesis that OSAS might be associated with essential and resistant hypertension, as well as with an incremental risk of developing stroke, cardiac rhythm perturbations (e.g., atrial fibrillation, bradyarrhythmias, supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias), coronary artery disease, acute myocardial infarction, and heart failure. Although it is still unclear whether OSAS might represent an independent risk factor for several acute or chronic conditions, or rather might trigger cardiovascular disease in the presence of traditional cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., obesity, diabetes, and dyslipidemia), there is a plausible biological background underlying this association, in that most of the mechanisms implicated in the pathogenesis of OSAS (i.e., hypoxia, hypercapnia, negative intrathoracic pressure, micro-arousal, sympathetic hyperactivity, metabolic and hormonal changes, oxidative stress, phlogosis, endothelial dysfunction, hypercoagulability, and genetic predisposition) might also be involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders. In this article we discuss the different aspects of the relationship between OSAS and pathogenically different conditions such as systemic hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, metabolic abnormalities, arrhythmias, and heart failure, and we also discuss the kaleidoscope of phenomena implicated in the pathogenesis of this challenging disease.

© Thieme Medical Publishers.

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