Sleep apnea linked to venous thromboembolism

Sleep apnea, both obstructive and central, and other types of sleep disordered breathing are significant risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE), according to study findings presented this week at the CHEST 2009 meeting in San Diego, California.

“We found that patients with sleep disordered breathing are almost twice as likely to get VTE. The risk was higher among females with sleep disordered breathing and smaller in patients age 60 and older,” lead researcher Dr. Majd Alnas, from Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, told Reuters Health.

Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked with myocardial infarction and increases in prothombotic factors, but its association with VTE has not been well studied.

Using data form the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the researchers identified over 2.4 million patients (60% male) who were hospitalized with sleep disordered breathing from 1979 to 2005.

The rates of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and VTE were 1.03%, 1.17%, and 1.94%, respectively. Women with sleep disordered breathing had higher rates of pulmonary embolism and VTE than did men, while men had a higher rate of deep vein thrombosis.

In subjects 60 years of age and older, the rates of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and VTE were 1.09%, 1.49%, and 2.3%, respectively.

Overall, sleep disordered breathing patients were 72% more likely to have VTE than were patients with normal breathing during sleep. Among females, the relative risk climbed to 111%, while among patients 60 and older, the relative risk was 28%.

Further research, Dr. Alnas concluded, is needed to determine “whether treatment for sleep disordered breathing will decrease the risk for VTE.