Increased Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and Serum Inflammatory Markers in Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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Increased carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and increased serum levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6, and IL-18, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether carotid IMT, a useful marker for early atherosclerosis, is associated with these inflammatory markers in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Carotid IMT was investigated with ultrasonography in 36 patients with OSA and 16 obese control subjects. Serum levels of CRP, IL-6, and IL-18 were measured at 5:00 A.M. Carotid IMT (p < 0.001) and serum levels of CRP (p < 0.003), IL-6 (p < 0.005), and IL-18 (p < 0.03) of patients with OSA were significantly higher than those of obese control subjects. Carotid IMT was significantly correlated with serum levels of CRP (r= 0.61, p = 0.0001), IL-6 (r= 0.41, p = 0.01), and IL-18 (r= 0.45, p = 0.005), duration of OSA-related hypoxia (r= 0.60, p = 0.0001), and severity of OSA (r= 0.50, p = 0.002). In addition, the primary factor influencing carotid IMT was duration of hypoxia during total sleep time (p = 0.036). These results suggest that OSA-related hypoxia and systemic inflammation might be associated with the progression of atherosclerosis and thus might increase the risks of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular morbidity in patients with OSA.

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