Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome: Weighing in on Therapy Options

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Abstract

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome is becoming an increasingly encountered condition both in respiratory outpatient clinics and in hospitalized patients. The health consequences and social disadvantages of obesity hypoventilation syndrome are significant. Unfortunately, the diagnosis and institution of appropriate therapy is commonly delayed when the syndrome is not recognized or misdiagnosed. Positive airway pressure therapy remains the mainstay of treatment and is effective in controlling sleep-disordered breathing and improving awake blood gases in the majority of individuals. Evidence supporting one mode of therapy over another is limited. Both continuous and bilevel therapy modes can successfully improve daytime gas exchange, with adherence to therapy an important modifiable factor in the response to treatment. Despite adherence to therapy, these individuals continue to experience excess mortality primarily due to cardiovascular events compared with those with eucapnic sleep apnea using CPAP. This difference likely arises from ongoing systemic inflammation secondary to the morbidly obese state. The need for a comprehensive approach to managing nutrition, weight, and physical activity in addition to reversal of sleep-disordered breathing is now widely recognized. Future studies need to evaluate the impact of a more aggressive and comprehensive treatment plan beyond managing sleep-disordered breathing. The impact of early identification and treatment of sleep-disordered breathing on the development and reversal of cardiometabolic dysfunction also requires further attention.

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