Treat sleep apnoea to cut down on AF risk, say researchers

Treating sleep apnoea patients with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy could help suppress the recurrence of AF, according to US researchers.

CPAP: sleep apnoea treatment could cut AF risk (Photo: Science Photo Library)
CPAP: sleep apnoea treatment could cut AF risk (Photo: Science Photo Library)

A team from New York University showed that CPAP therapy was associated with a 42% reduction in the risk of AF recurrence in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea, regardless of their primary treatment.

They said that the results showed that treating the risk factors associated with AF could influence the outcomes of therapy, although further study was required to confirm this.

Active screening for sleep apnoea should ‘become as routine as measurements of BP and blood sugar levels in diabetics’ in light of the association, they added.

The meta-analysis study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, included data obtained from seven studies and over 1,000 patients, making it the largest yet to evaluate the effect of CPAP on AF.

Treat risk factors

Sleep apnoea is one of several conditions – including hypertension, obesity and diabetes – that are known to contribute to the onset and progression of AF. Sleep apnoea is also associated with a recurrence in AF after common primary treatments for the condition, such as catheter ablation with pulmonary vein isolation.

The researchers said that identifying and treating these conditions could ensure that more direct treatments for the condition were effective.

‘Our study confirms the expanding body of evidence that treatment of modifiable risk factors has a significant impact on the long-term suppression of AF regardless of the type of therapy offered,’ said study author Professor Larry Chinitz.

‘Active screening for obstructive sleep apnoea in all patients who undergo treatment for AF is imperative, as the use of CPAP will influence the outcome of therapy and likely reduce some of the cardiovascular morbidity associated with AF.’

Previous studies have shown that treating sleep apnoea can also reduce high BP.

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