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Curr Cardiol Rev. 2012 Nov;8(4):265-72.

Sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation; 2012 update.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology, Kingston General Hospital, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are very prevalent diseases in modern society. Recent years have seen the emergence of a wide body of literature suggesting an important association between these two diseases. This review will provide a summary of this evidence as it currently exists. First, it will review the literature suggesting an association between AF and OSA by highlighting the prevalence of AF in OSA, the correlation of AF prevalence with OSA severity and the trend towards increased AF recurrence in patients with OSA after treatment for AF. Second, it will identify the possible pathophysiologic mechanisms for this association. In doing so, it will discuss the investigated effects of intrathoracic pressure changes, autonomic instability and atrial remodeling. Finally, it will review the evidence of the effect of treatment of OSA on AF, highlighting the role of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in the treatment of OSA and its impact on AF prevalence and recurrence.

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