Echocardiographic features of the right heart in sleep-disordered breathing: the Framingham Heart Study

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Sep 15;164(6):933-8. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.164.6.2001092.


The effect of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) on right heart structure and function is controversial. Studies of patients referred for evaluation of possible sleep apnea have yielded conflicting results, and the impact of SDB on the right heart has not been investigated in the general population. We examined the echocardiographic features of subjects with SDB at the Framingham Heart Study site of the Sleep Heart Health Study. Of 1,001 polysomnography subjects, 90 with SDB defined as a respiratory disturbance index (RDI) score > 90th percentile (mean RDI = 42) were compared with 90 low-RDI subjects (mean RDI = 5) matched for age, sex, and body mass index. Right heart measurements, made without knowledge of clinical status, were compared between groups. The majority of the subjects were male (74%). After multivariable adjustment, right ventricle (RV) wall thickness was significantly greater (p = 0.005) in subjects with SDB (0.78 +/- 0.02 cm) than in the low-RDI subjects (0.68 +/- 0.02 cm). Right atrial dimensions, RV dimensions, and RV systolic function were not found to be significantly different between subjects with SDB and the low-RDI subjects. We conclude that in this community-based study of SDB and right heart echocardiographic features, RV wall thickness was increased in subjects with SDB. Whether the RV hypertrophy observed in persons with SDB is associated with increased morbidity and mortality remains unknown.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Echocardiography*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Right Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Hypertrophy, Right Ventricular / etiology*
  • Hypertrophy, Right Ventricular / physiopathology
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Observer Variation
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Ventricular Function, Right*
  • Vital Capacity