Sleep disordered breathing in chronic heart failure

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Heart failure is a growing problem, placing an increasing burden on public health resources and continuing to exert a high toll in mortality and morbidity. Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is also a major public health problem and is associated with an increased risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events. Current evidence suggests SDB, particularly central SDB, is more prevalent in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) than in the general population, but is under-diagnosed as SDB symptoms are less prevalent in CHF. This is further hampered by the absence of a simple and accurate screening tool and limited access to sleep facilities to diagnose SDB in the large numbers of patients with CHF. The presence of SDB in patients with CHF imposes increased haemodynamic burdens and results in autonomic abnormalities. Central SDB is an independent marker of worse prognosis, and evidence is increasing that obstructive SDB is also associated with higher mortality in patients with CHF. Optimal treatment of central SDB in these patients remains uncertain. While evidence of efficacy of positive pressure ventilation is stronger in obstructive SDB, improvement in survival for patients with both CHF and SDB awaits definitive trials. This paper summarizes our current understanding of the pathophysiology of SDB in CHF, and the cardiovascular consequences, and reviews the evidence for the beneficial effects of treatment of SDB in patients with CHF.

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