Increased arterial stiffness in obstructive sleep apnea: a systematic review

Hypertens Res. 2011 Jan;34(1):23-32. doi: 10.1038/hr.2010.200. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Obstructive sleep apnea is a prevalent disease that is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, particularly due to cardiovascular disease. An emerging cardiovascular risk factor, arterial stiffness, may also be involved in the cardiovascular complications of obstructive sleep apnea. The purpose of this review was to summarize the current literature regarding the effect of obstructive sleep apnea on arterial stiffness. We conducted a systematic literature review using PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Library. We identified 24 studies that met search criteria investigating the effect of obstructive sleep apnea on arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness was found to be increased in obstructive sleep apnea patients compared with controls or increased in severe compared with mild sleep apnea. In some studies, a positive correlation was identified between the degree of arterial stiffness and sleep apnea severity. In the two randomized, controlled trials and the two nonrandomized trials identified, treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure led to significant decreases in arterial stiffness. Obstructive sleep apnea appears to have an independent effect on arterial stiffness, which may be one of the mechanisms accounting for sleep apnea-associated cardiovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteries / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy