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Eur Respir J. 2005 Jan;25(1):69-74.

Changes in extracranial arteries in obstructive sleep apnoea.

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Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Dept of Internal Medicine, Justus-Liebig University, Klinikstr. 36, 35392 Giessen, Germany.


Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is linked with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, possibly through an enhancement of atherosclerotic vascular changes. Up to now, however, only a few studies have tried to evaluate the occurrence of atherosclerosis in patients with OSA. In the present study, ultrasonography of the large extracranial vessels was performed in a group of consecutively admitted OSA patients (n = 35) and a control group of non-OSA patients (n = 35). Common carotid artery-intima media thickness (CCA-IMT) was measured at the far wall of both proximal carotid arteries. Furthermore, the presence of plaques and stenoses of the extracranial vessels was determined. All measurements were carried out blinded to the status of the patients. In the OSA group, CCA-IMT was significantly increased when compared with the non-OSA patients and was related to the degree of nocturnal hypoxia. Additionally, the formation of plaques was more pronounced and extracranial vessel stenosis was more common in the OSA patients. In conclusion, these findings are in favour of an independent influence of obstructive sleep apnoea on atherosclerotic changes of the arterial wall, and represent further strong arguments for obstructive sleep apnoea being a risk factor on its own for the emergence of cardiovascular disease.

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