Atrial fibrillation in obstructive sleep apnea

Sandeep K Goyal, Abhishek Sharma
World Journal of Cardiology 2013 June 26, 5 (6): 157-63
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia with rising incidence. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is prevalent among patients with AF. This observation has prompted significant research in understanding the relationship between OSA and AF. Multiple studies support a role of OSA in the initiation and progression of AF. This association has been independent of obesity, body mass index and hypertension. Instability of autonomic tone and wide swings in intrathoracic pressure are seen in OSA. These have been mechanistically linked to initiation of AF in OSA patients by lowering atrial effective refractory period, promoting pulmonary vein discharges and atrial dilation. OSA not only promotes initiation of AF but also makes management of AF difficult. Drug therapy and electrical cardioversion for AF are less successful in presence of OSA. There has been higher rate of early and overall recurrence after catheter ablation of AF in patients with OSA. Treatment of OSA with continuous positive airway pressure has been shown to improve control of AF. However, additional studies are needed to establish a stronger relationship between OSA treatment and success of AF therapies. There should be heightened suspicion of OSA in patients with AF. There is a need for guidelines to screen for OSA as a part of AF management.


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