A new study looking at the influence of sleep apnea on heart failure patients found that sleep apnea led to an increased risk of death within three years after hospitalization. This study supports earlier research showing that sleep apnea increased the risk that a heart failure patient would be readmitted within 30 days of discharge.

Newly Diagnosed Sleep Apnea

An elderly man getting a doctor's examIn this study, researchers looked at cases of newly diagnosed sleep apnea. That is, patients whose sleep apnea was unknown until they were admitted to the hospital for heart failure. They started with a population of 1117 heart failure patients who were admitted to the hospital. They found that more than three-quarters of the population (78%, 869 patients) had sleep apnea!

This isn’t too big a surprise. After all, obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common risk factors for heart failure. And heart failure often causes central sleep apnea in patients. Just under half of patients (47%, 525) had obstructive sleep apnea, while just under a third (31%, 344) had central sleep apnea.

Because of the nature of these patients’ hospitalization, researchers didn’t use polysomnography to determine sleep apnea. Instead, they used a test called cardiorespiratory polygraphy. This test monitors a patient’s breath and heart and can identify apneic episodes.

They followed patients for three years and compared mortality rates among those patients with sleep apnea and those without. Patients with sleep apnea were about 1.5 times as likely to die within three years than those without. Mortality rates for central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea were about the same.

Will Treatment Help?

One limitation of this study is that it doesn’t look at the impact of treatment on survivability of sleep apneic heart failure patients. It just wasn’t part of this study. Based on previous research, we suspect it probably would.

But one of the most important things that sleep apnea treatment can do is prevent a person from suffering heart failure in the first place. None the patients in this study had their sleep apnea detected before developing heart failure. It’s possible that if they had been treated, they would not have suffered heart failure.

If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, time is of the essence. For more information about sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.