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Lancet. 2002 Jul 20;360(9328):237-45.

Obstructive sleep apnoea.

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Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Obstructive sleep apnoea is a disease of increasing importance because of its neurocognitive and cardiovascular sequelae. Abnormalities in the anatomy of the pharynx, the physiology of the upper airway muscle dilator, and the stability of ventilatory control are important causes of repetitive pharyngeal collapse during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnoea can be diagnosed on the basis of characteristic history (snoring, daytime sleepiness) and physical examination (increased neck circumference), but overnight polysomnography is needed to confirm presence of the disorder. Repetitive pharyngeal collapse causes recurrent arousals from sleep, leading to sleepiness and increased risk of motor vehicle and occupational accidents. The surges in hypoxaemia, hypercapnia, and catecholamine associated with this disorder have now been implicated in development of hypertension, but the association between obstructive sleep apnoea and myocardial infarction, stroke, and congestive heart failure is not proven. Continuous positive airway pressure, the treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnoea, reduces sleepiness and improves hypertension.

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