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South Med J. 2006 Jan;99(1):58-67; quiz 68-9, 81.

Inflammatory aspects of sleep apnea and their cardiovascular consequences.

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Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614, USA.

Erratum in

  • South Med J. 2006 Feb;99(2):163.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common medical condition that occurs in a considerable percentage of the population. Substantial evidence shows that patients with OSA have an increased incidence of hypertension compared with individuals without OSA, and that OSA is a risk factor for the development of hypertension. It is established that OSA may be implicated in stroke and transient ischemic attacks. OSA is associated with coronary heart disease, heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmias. Pulmonary hypertension may be associated with OSA, especially in patients with pre-existing pulmonary disease. Although the exact cause that links OSA with cardiovascular disease is unknown, there is evidence that OSA is associated with a group of proinflammatory and prothrombotic factors that have been identified as important in the development of atherosclerosis. OSA is associated with increased daytime and nocturnal sympathetic activity. Autonomic abnormalities seen in patients with OSA include increased resting heart rate, decreased R-R interval variability, and increased blood pressure variability. Both atherosclerosis and OSA are associated with endothelial dysfunction, increased C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, fibrinogen, plasminogen activator inhibitor, and reduced fibrinolytic activity. OSA has been associated with enhanced platelet activity and aggregation. Leukocyte adhesion and accumulation on endothelial cells are common in both OSA and atherosclerosis. Clinicians should be aware that OSA may be a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

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