Altered cardiovascular variability in obstructive sleep apnea

Krzysztof Narkiewicz, Nicola Montano, Chiara Cogliati, Philippe J.H. Van De Borne, Mark E. Dyken, Virend K. Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

450 Scopus citations


Background - Altered cardiovascular variability is a prognostic indicator for cardiovascular events. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. We tested the hypothesis that OSA is accompanied by alterations in cardiovascular variability, even in the absence of overt cardiovascular disease. Methods and Results - Spectral analysis of variability of muscle sympathetic nerve activity, RR interval, and blood pressure were obtained during undisturbed supine rest in 15 patients with moderate-to-severe OSA, 18 patients with mild OSA, and 16 healthy control subjects in whom sleep disordered breathing was excluded by complete overnight polysomnography. Patients with OSA were newly diagnosed, never treated for OSA, and free of any other known diseases. Patients with moderate-to-severe OSA had shorter RR intervals (793 ± 27 ms) and increased sympathetic burst frequency (49±4 bursts/min) compared with control subjects (947±42 ms; 24±3 bursts/min; P=0.008 and P<0.001, respectively). In these patients, total variance of RR was reduced (P=0.01) and spectral analysis of RR variability showed an increase in low frequency normalized units, a decrease in high frequency normalized units, and an increase in the ratio of low to high frequency (all P<0.05). Even though blood pressure was similar to that of the control subjects, blood pressure variance in patients with moderate-to-severe OSA was more than double the variance in control subjects (P=0.01). Patients with mild OSA also had a reduction in RR variance (P=0.02) in the absence of any significant difference in absolute RR interval. For all patients with OSA, linear regression showed a positive correlation (r=0.40; P=0.02) between sleep apnea severity and blood pressure variance. Conclusions - Cardiovascular variability is altered in patients with OSA. This alteration is evident even in the absence of hypertension, heart failure, or other disease states and may be linked to the severity of OSA. Abnormalities in cardiovascular variability may be implicated in the subsequent development of overt cardiovascular disease in patients with OSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1071-1077
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 15 1998


  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Nervous system, autonomic
  • Nervous system, sympathetic
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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