A breathing problem called sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) seems to be common in patients with a heart condition called atrial fibrillation. Still, it is unclear whether the rate of SAS is any higher than that seen in healthy people.
A breathing problem called sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) seems to be common in patients with a heart condition called atrial fibrillation. Still, it is unclear whether the rate of SAS is any higher than that seen in healthy people. SAS is a potentially serious problem that involves brief periods of absent breathing during sleep. Atrial fibrillation is a rhythm problem of the heart in which the upper chambers, or atria, beat fast and irregularly. According to several studies, SAS predisposes patients to heart rhythm problems, but the rate of SAS in specific conditions has not been determined, Dr. Kimmo Markus Porthan, of Helsinki University Central Hospital, in Finland, and colleagues write in the medical journal Chest. In the new study, the researchers examined the rate of SAS in 59 patients with atrial fibrillation and in 56 similar subjects without heart problems. The average age of all subjects was 59 years. Thirty-two percent of atrial fibrillation patients had SAS, a high rate but not that much different from the percentage in the healthy group–29 percent. Compared with men in the healthy group, those in the atrial fibrillation group had larger necks, a well-known risk factor for SAS. Also, patients in the atrial fibrillation group had more severe SAS symptoms, such as daytime tiredness and nightly breathing pauses. “The higher prevalence of well-known risk factors for (SAS) in patients with atrial fibrillation does suggest that this relationship needs further study,” the authors conclude. (Source: Chest: Reuters Health: MedLine Plus: April 2004.)