Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Atrial Fibrillation

Poor sleep habits are often a harbinger to atrial fibrillation, and an important study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine noted that increased severity of sleep apnea closely correlated with atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias. Medicomp presents the following information to inform its clients of the latest research and findings in the cardiovascular field and show how an ECG monitor may aid in assessing heart function for apneic patients.

Two types of sleep apnea were compared in this research, which followed older men experiencing apneic episodes: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Of the two, it was determined that the most common form of apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, was associated with increased ventricular events. Central sleep apnea occurs with lesser frequency and is closely correlated with atrial fibrillation.

Obstructive sleep apnea is defined as declining oxygen levels due to disrupted breathing, which in turn stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to respond. It was noted that half of all patients who experienced atrial fibrillation also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This close correlation is stronger than the incidence of atrial fibrillation with any other risk factor.

Researchers believe the tie between sleep apnea and high levels of C-reactive protein are responsible for the increased prevalence of cardiac arrhythmia since C-reactive protein is an inflammatory marker for the presence of heart disease. Moreover, patients with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to experience atrial fibrillation after electrical cardioversion than patients who do not suffer from any form of apnea. The tie is even stronger when the patient in question is obese.

Although this study followed older men experiencing apneic episodes, researchers believe the results will apply to women and men much younger than those studied. The study also evaluated specific types of apnea; while many studies focused on extreme forms of sleep apnea comparing them to patients without apneic episodes, very few focused on middle-of-the-road sleep apnea. Confirmation between sleep apnea and cardiac arrhythmia was significantly strengthened.

In previous studies, researchers evaluated patients with very severe sleep apnea compared with asymptomatic patients. In this study, those in the middle sleep apnea spectrum were studied and the progressive nature of the sleep apnea-arrhythmia relationship was confirmed.

Ongoing research is giving physicians a more thorough understanding of causes and triggers of heart disease. If you have patients with sleep apnea, it may be wise to suggest the wearing of a portable ECG monitor from Medicomp to determine whether your patient has similar findings. Call Medicomp at 800-23-HEART (800-234-3278) to speak with one of our representatives, and read our blogs for more information pertaining to the latest in cardiovascular findings.

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