Acetazolamide attenuates hunter-cheyne-stokes breathing but augments the hypercapnic ventilatory response in patients with heart failure

Shahrokh Javaheri, Scott A. Sands, Bradley A. Edwards

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Acetazolamide has been used to attenuate Hunter-Cheyne-Stokes breathing with central sleep apnea (CSA) associated with heart failure. However, the mechanisms underlying this improvement remain to be fully elucidated. Objectives: We hypothesized that acetazolamide stabilizes CSA by attenuating the ventilatory sensitivity to CO2, which is increased in patients with heart failure and is thought to be the major mechanism mediating CSA. Methods: Six consecutive male patients with stable systolic heart failure and CSA (apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] > 15 episodes/h) were randomized to a double-blind crossover protocol with acetazolamide or placebo received 1 hour before bedtime for six nights with 2 weeks of wash-out. Under both conditions, we measured the hypercapnic ventilatory response (HCVR), arterial blood PCO2, steadystate metabolic CO2 production, overnight attended polysomnography, and also assessed cardiac and pulmonary function. Measurements and Main Results: Compared with placebo, acetazolamide significantly decreased the AHI (65 ± 32 vs. 31 ± 19 events/h, mean ± SD). Acetazolamide increased the HCVR slope by 55% (3.3 ± 1.7 vs. 5.1 ± 2.4 L/min/mm Hg; P = 0.03), an increase that far exceeded the 12% fall in arterial PCO2 (P = 0.02). The acetazolamide-induced change in the balance of these effects (ΔHCVR x PCO2) was inversely associated with the reduction in AHI (r = 0.8; P = 0.045). Conclusions: This placebo-controlled study indicates that acetazolamide improves CSA in patients with heart failure despite an increase in the slope of the HCVR. However, because the degree of HCVR elevation inhibits the improvement in unstable breathing, an increased CO2 chemosensitivity may be a key mechanism underlying an incomplete resolution of CSA with acetazolamide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetazolamide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cheyne-Stokes respiration
  • Sleep apnea, central
  • Ventilation

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