Impairment of vascular endothelial function and left ventricular filling : association with the severity of apnea-induced hypoxemia during sleep

Chest. 2001 Apr;119(4):1085-91. doi: 10.1378/chest.119.4.1085.


Study objective: To investigate whether a dose-effect relationship exists between the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and subclinical indicators of myocardial or vascular dysfunction.

Design: Cross-sectional study using correlation analysis.

Participants: Twenty subjects referred to our sleep laboratory for screening or therapy of OSA but without regular medication and without known cardiovascular disease.

Measurements: Severity of OSA was quantified by polysomnography. Moreover, nocturnal excretion of norepinephrine was determined. Left ventricular (LV) myocardial function was assessed with Doppler echocardiography. Using ultrasonographic measurements, endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent conduit artery dilation were measured as flow-mediated and glyceryltrinitrate-induced changes in brachial artery diameter.

Results: Worsening nocturnal hypoxemia, measured as nocturnal oxygen saturation nadir or percentage of sleep time spent in hypoxemia (< 90% hemoglobin oxygen saturation), predicted increased interventricular septum thickness (corrected for age and body mass index), prolonged isovolumetric relaxation time, decreased ratio between peak early and late mitral flow velocities, as well as reduced endothelium-dependent dilatory capacity of the brachial artery (all relationships corrected for cofactor age and with p < 0.05) were observed. Associations between these cardiovascular function markers and nocturnal excretion of norepinephrine followed the same trend, but relations with interventricular septum thickness and flow-mediated artery dilation missed significance (p = 0.064 and p = 0.061, respectively). LV posterior wall thickness, measures of LV systolic function, early mitral flow deceleration time, and endothelium-independent artery dilation were not significantly related to the degree of nocturnal hypoxemia or norepinephrine excretion. None of the correlations with apnea-hypopnea index were statistically significant.

Conclusions: The severity of apnea-related hypoxemia is associated with a gradual deterioration of LV diastolic function as well as large-artery endothelial function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Brachial Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Brachial Artery / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diastole
  • Echocardiography
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Contraction
  • Nitroglycerin / pharmacology
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnostic imaging
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Vasodilation / drug effects
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology
  • Ventricular Function, Left*


  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Norepinephrine