Is obstructive sleep apnoea causally related to arterial stiffness? A critical review of the experimental evidence

Sleep Med Rev. 2013 Feb;17(1):7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Jun 1.


Large elastic arteries and smaller muscular conduit arteries become stiffer with ageing, a process that is accelerated in the presence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In recent years, numerous techniques have been developed to measure arterial stiffness, either in single vessels or in entire muscular arterial trees. These techniques have increasingly been shown to improve stratification of cardiovascular risk and risk reduction beyond that provided by conventional risk factors. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) has been increasingly linked with excess cardiovascular morbidity and mortality however the mechanisms are still not well understood. Robustly designed studies have shown that treatment of OSA with nasal continuous positive airway pressure improves important intermediate risk factors for CVD including hypertension and endothelial function. More recently, there has been increased exploration of arterial stiffness in both cross-sectional and interventional studies in OSA patients. This review aims to give the reader a better understanding of the measurement and pathophysiology of arterial stiffness as well as providing an indication of how well a prognostic indicator are the various measures of arterial stiffness for hard cardiovascular endpoints. A critical appraisal is then provided of cross-sectional and interventional studies that have explored these same techniques in OSA populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Vascular Stiffness / drug effects
  • Vascular Stiffness / physiology*


  • Antihypertensive Agents