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Hum Pathol. 1997 Mar;28(3):264-9.

Cardiopulmonary pathology in patients with sleep apnea/obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

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Department of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, OH 44109, USA.


We reviewed clinical data, autopsy reports, and microscopic slides on 10 patients with sleep apnea/obesity hypoventilation syndrome (SA/OHS) to define the cardiopulmonary pathological features and establish clinicopathologic correlations. Ten obese (>136 kg) patients without SA/OHS were studied as controls. Patients with SA/OHS exhibited biventricular cardiac failure and pulmonary hypertension with a higher prevalence of moderate/severe pulmonary hemosiderosis (8 v 0 patients), alveolar hemorrhage (7 v 4 patients), capillary proliferation (4 v 0 patients), iron encrustation of elastica (1 v 0 patients) and medial hypertrophy of muscular pulmonary arteries (11.9 +/- 2.4 v 9.7 +/- 1.6%) (P < .05). In two patients capillary proliferation resembled capillary hemangiomatosis. Mean right ventricular thickness was higher in the SA/OHS group (0.71 +/- 0.17 v 0.42 +/- 0.1 cm) (P < .01). Four patients with SA/OHS and three controls had moderate/severe myocardial fibrosis. Biventricular cardiac failure caused death in seven patients with SA/OHS. Hypoxia is probably the most important cause of pulmonary hypertension, arterial muscularization, and right ventricular hypertrophy in SA/ OHS. Left ventricular failure in some SA/OHS patients may be the result of hypertensive cardiac disease. In others, the etiology of left ventricular failure was not determined morphologically, suggesting functional abnormalities related to obesity and/or apneic episodes.

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