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Sleep. 1999 Nov 1;22(7):939-46.

Periodic, profound peripheral vasoconstriction--a new marker of obstructive sleep apnea.

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Itamar Medical Ltd., Caesarea, Israel.


We report a novel approach to the determination of sleep apnea based on measuring the peripheral circulatory responses in a primary condition of disordered breathing. The apparatus is a finger plethysmograph coupled to a constant volume, variable pressure, pneumatic system. The plethysmograph's tip (measurement site) is composed of two parallel opposing longitudinal half thimbles, which is attached to a contiguous annular cuff. Each compartment consists of an internal membrane surrounded by an outer rigid wall. These provide a uniform pressure field and impart a two-point locking action preventing axial and longitudinal motion of the finger. Subdiastolic pressure is applied to prevent venous pooling, engorgement, and stasis, to inhibit retrograde venous shock wave propagation and partially unload arterial wall tension. The annular cuff extends the effective boundary of the pressure field beyond the measuring site. In 42 patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) profound, transient vasoconstriction and tachycardia usually of a periodic nature, were clearly seen with each apneic event, possibly related to transient arousal. Good agreement was found between standard total apnea-hypopnea scoring, 129.5+/-22.4 (Mean +/- SEM), and transient vasoconstriction and tachycardia events, 121.2+/-19.4 (R = .92, p<.0001). We conclude that the finger tip exemplifies the scope of peripheral vascular responsiveness due to its high density of alpha sympathetic innervation, and its high degree of blood flow rate lability. Given that elevated peripheral resistance and tightly linked transient heart rate elevation is a consistent part of the hemodynamic response to arousal and OSAS, we believe that pulsatile finger blood flow patterns can be clearly diagnostic of OSAS and other sleep-disordered breathing conditions.

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