Nocturnal breathing in cyanotic congenital heart disease

Int J Cardiol. 2008 Aug 18;128(2):197-200. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2007.06.014. Epub 2007 Jul 23.


Background: Sleep disordered breathing is frequently observed in patients with cardiovascular disease. Even in the absence of heart disease, acute and chronic hypoxia have been shown to promote sleep-related periodic breathing with central apnea characterized by a repetitive reduction or lack of respiratory activity. Cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD) is associated with chronic hypoxia, regardless of whether an increase in pulmonary artery pressures coexists. Sleep aggravated hypoxia has been observed in many such patients, but it remains to be determined whether sleep disordered breathing is contributory. We, therefore, sought to assess sleep-related breathing pattern in patients with CCHD.

Methods: Adults with CCHD, resting arterial oxygen saturation <90%, and systemic ejection fraction >40% were prospectively enrolled in a cross-sectional study. To assess sleep and respiratory indices, subjects underwent a standardized clinical appraisal that included arterial blood gas analysis and a comprehensive sleep study with an ambulatory device. An apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) >or=5/h was considered to indicate sleep apnea.

Results: Ten adults with CCHD, aged 38+/-11 years, completed the study. Seven patients had elevated pulmonary artery pressures, with a mean systolic pressure of 86.3+/-18.1 mm Hg. All patients demonstrated normal sleep parameters. Oxygen saturation further declined in 5 patients during sleep. However, no associated alteration in respiratory parameters was observed and no significant arrhythmia. The mean AHI was 1.1+/-1.0/h. No subject met the pre-defined criterion for sleep apnea.

Conclusion: Although further oxygen desaturation may be observed during sleep in patients with CCHD, it occurs in the absence of sleep disordered breathing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / complications
  • Hypoxia / etiology*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*