Background: Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is associated with high cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and is an independent risk factor for hypertension. Novel circulating cardiovascular risk markers enabling a more accurate prediction of cardiovascular risk have been identified. Examination of these markers may clarify the increased risk in OSA and contribute to an analysis of the benefits of treatment.
Methods: Plasma levels of total cholesterol and triglyceride and activated coagulation factors XIIa and VIIa, factors VII, VIII, XII, fibrinogen, thrombin-antithrombin (TAT), von Willebrand factor antigen (vWFAg), soluble P-selectin (sP-sel), and homocysteine were measured before and after treatment for 1 month with therapeutic or subtherapeutic (control) continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) in 220 patients with OSA.
Results: Levels of activated coagulation factors XIIa, VIIa, TAT and sP-sel were higher in OSA patients at baseline than in unmatched controls, but did not fall with 1 month of therapeutic CPAP treatment. The raised sP-sel levels correlated only with body mass index (p = 0.002). There was a trend towards a significant fall in total cholesterol with therapeutic CPAP (p = 0.06) compared with the control group. In the therapeutic group there was a clinically significant mean fall in total cholesterol of 0.28 mmol/l (95% confidence interval 0.11 to 0.45, p = 0.001) which may reduce cardiovascular risk by about 15%.
Conclusion: A number of activated coagulation factors are increased in untreated OSA patients, potentially contributing to vascular risk, but they do not fall with 1 month of CPAP treatment. Nasal CPAP may produce a clinically relevant fall in total cholesterol level, potentially reducing cardiovascular risk, but this needs to be verified in a larger prospective study.