Send to

Choose Destination
N Engl J Med. 1996 Aug 22;335(8):562-7.

Effect of theophylline on sleep-disordered breathing in heart failure.

Author information

Pulmonary Services, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45220, USA.



Theophylline has been used to treat central apnea associated with Cheyne-Stokes respiration (periodic breathing). We studied the effect of short-term oral theophylline therapy on periodic breathing associated with stable heart failure due to systolic dysfunction.


Fifteen men with compensated heart failure (left ventricular ejection fraction, 45 percent or less) participated in the study. Their base-line polysomnograms showed periodic breathing, with more than 10 episodes of apnea and hypopnea per hour. In a double-blind crossover study, the patients received theophylline or placebo orally twice daily for five days, with one week of washout between the two periods.


After five days of treatment, the mean (+/-SD) plasma theophylline concentration was 11 +/- 2 microgram per milliliter. Theophylline therapy resulted in significant decreases in the number of episodes of apnea and hypopnea per hour (18 +/- 17, vs. 37 +/- 23 with placebo and 47 +/- 21 at base line; P<0.001), the number of episodes of central apnea per hour (6 +/- 14, vs. 26 +/- 21 and 26 +/- 20, respectively; P<0.001), and the percentage of total sleep time during which the arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation was less than 90 percent (6 +/- 11 percent, vs., 23 +/- 37 and 14 +/- 14 percent, respectively; P<0.04). There were no significant differences in the characteristics of sleep, the frequency of ventricular arrhythmias, daytime arterial-blood gas values, or the left ventricular ejection fraction during the base-line, placebo, and theophylline phases of the study.


In patients with stable heart failure, oral theophylline therapy reduced the number of episodes of apnea and hypopnea and the duration of arterial oxyhemoglobin desaturation during sleep.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center