Sleep apnoea in heart failure: To treat or not to treat?

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Heart failure (HF) and sleep apnoea are common disorders which frequently coexist. Two main types of apnoea occur: one is obstructive which, through recurring episodes of snoring, hypoxaemia, large negative intra-thoracic pressures and arousals from sleep leading to downstream inflammatory and autonomic nervous system changes, is thought to be a causative factor to the development of systemic hypertension and HF. The other type of apnoea, Cheyne–Stokes respiration with central sleep apnoea (CSR-CSA), is characterized by an oscillatory pattern of ventilation with a prevailing hyperventilation-induced hypocapnia, often in the absence of significant hypoxaemia and snoring, and is thought to be a consequence of advanced HF-related low cardiac output, high sympathetic nervous system activation and pulmonary congestion. CSR-CSA may be a compensatory response to advanced HF. Rostral fluid shift during sleep may play an important role in the pathogenesis of both obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and CSA. Studies of positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment of OSA and CSA in HF have shown short-term improvements in cardiac and autonomic function; however, there is no evidence of improved survival. Loop gain may provide useful marker of continuous PAP (CPAP) responsiveness in patients with central apnoea. A greater understanding of the pathophysiology of the interaction between obstructive and central apnoea and the various types of HF, and the mechanisms of therapies, such as PAP, is required to develop new strategies to overcome the disabling symptoms, and perhaps improve the mortality, that accompany HF with sleep apnoea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • apnoea
  • central
  • heart failure
  • obstructive

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