Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the Recurrence of Atrial Fibrillation

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Background—We tested the hypothesis that patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) would be at increased risk for recurrence of atrial fibrillation (AF) after cardioversion.Methods and Results—We prospectively obtained data on history, echocardiogram, ECG, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, NYHA functional class, ejection fraction, left atrial appendage velocity, and medications in patients with AF/atrial flutter referred for DC cardioversion. Forty-three individuals were identified as having OSA on the basis of a previous sleep study. Data regarding the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and recurrence of AF were obtained for 39 of these patients. Follow-up data were also obtained in 79 randomly selected postcardioversion patients (controls) who did not have any previous sleep study. Twenty-seven of the 39 OSA patients either were not receiving any CPAP therapy (n=25) or were using CPAP inappropriately (n=2). Recurrence of AF at 12 months in these 27 patients was 82%, higher than the 42% recurrence in the treated OSA group (n=12, P =0.013) and the 53% recurrence (n=79, P =0.009) in the 79 control patients. Of the 25 OSA patients who had not been treated at all, the nocturnal fall in oxygen saturation was greater (P =0.034) in those who had recurrence of AF (n=20) than in those without recurrence (n=5).Conclusions—Patients with untreated OSA have a higher recurrence of AF after cardioversion than patients without a polysomnographic diagnosis of sleep apnea. Appropriate treatment with CPAP in OSA patients is associated with lower recurrence of AF.

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