Structural and serum surrogate markers of cerebrovascular disease in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): association of mild OSA with early atherosclerosis

J Neurol. 2006 Jun;253(6):746-52. doi: 10.1007/s00415-006-0110-6. Epub 2006 Mar 6.


There is increasing evidence of a causal interaction between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and cerebrovascular disease. The aim of the study was to elucidate the relationship between the polysomnographically (PSG) measured severity of OSA and carotid atherosclerosis determined by ultrasonography and serum surrogate markers. 147 patients (102 males, 45 females) referred to our sleep laboratory for evaluation of snoring and sleep-disordered breathing were investigated. Carotid atherosclerosis was evaluated by serum analysis of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and fibrinogen and four sonographic indices: intima-media thickness (IMT) of the common carotid artery (CCA), IMT from bulb to internal carotid artery (Bulb-ICA), combined IMT measurements from all segments and a plaque score (PlaS). Pearson correlation analysis, intergroup comparison (ANOVA), covariance analysis and a multiple regression were performed to assess the association between surrogate markers and respiratory variables. 44 patients had no OSA (apnea-hypopnea index AHI < 5/h), 27 mild (AHI 5-15), 25 moderate (AHI 15-30) and 51 severe OSA (AHI > 30). After adjusting for potential confounders, significant differences between the controls and all three OSA groups were observed in the CCA-IMT (p = 0.032) and in the PlaS between the controls and the severe group (p = 0.034). Multiple regression revealed the AHI as an independent predictor of CCA-IMT (p = 0.001) and combined IMT (p = 0.001), whereas the percentage of total sleep time with an oxygen saturation below 90 % was associated with Bulb-ICA IMT (p = 0.018) and hs-CRP (p = 0.015). OSA is associated with higher surrogate levels of cerebrovascular disease. Even mild OSA seems to predispose to early atherosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Atherosclerosis* / blood
  • Atherosclerosis* / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis* / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders* / blood
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders* / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiration
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / blood
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / pathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / physiopathology
  • Ultrasonography / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Fibrinogen
  • C-Reactive Protein