Severe sleep apnea increases risk of irregular heartbeat

December 11, 2018

Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska. Severe sleep apnea increases the risk of hospitalization for new atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, according to a study led by Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska. The study followed more than 8,000 people who were originally free of any irregular heartbeat for a median of 10 years. Over this time, 173 participants (2.1 percent) were hospitalized with new atrial fibrillation. Very severe sleep apnea (where blood oxygen levels fall below 90 percent for a third of the sleep time) was associated with a 77 percent increased risk of hospitalization with new atrial fibrillation, after controlling for traditional risk factors. The rate of hospitalization with atrial fibrillation was 7.8 percent for patients with these low blood oxygen levels in sleep compared to 1.7 percent for patients with normal oxygen levels. These findings can help identify those patients with sleep apnea who are at greatest risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

“These findings support a relationship between severe sleep apnea and the development of irregular heartbeat. They may be used to identify those patients with sleep apnea who are at greatest risk of developing atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska sleep physician and associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa.

Reference: This study was published in Chest.

Core resources: ICES

Funders: This study was funded by the CHEST Foundation. Research at The Ottawa Hospital is possible because of generous donations to the hospital.

Authors: Tetyana Kendzerska, Andrea S. Gershon, Clare Atzema, Paul Dorian, Iqwal Mangat, Gillian Hawker, Richard S. Leung

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