Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is becoming increasingly prevalent in North America and has been described in association with specific chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases. In primary care, where the prevalence of co-occurring chronic conditions is very high, the potential association with OSA is unknown. The purpose of this study was to explore the association between OSA and 1) the presence and severity of multimorbidity (multiple co-occurring chronic conditions), and 2) subcategories of multimorbidity.
Methods: A cluster sampling technique was used to recruit 120 patients presenting with OSA of various severities from the records of a sleep laboratory in 2008. Severity of OSA was based on the results of the polysomnography. Patients invited to participate received a mail questionnaire including questions on sociodemographic characteristics and the Disease Burden Morbidity Assessment (DBMA). They also consented to give access to their medical records. The DBMA was used to provide an overall multimorbidity score and sub-score of diseases affecting various systems.
Results: Bivariate analysis did not demonstrate an association between OSA and multimorbidity (r = 0.117; p = 0.205). However, severe OSA was associated with multimorbidity (adjusted odds ratio = 7.33 [1.67-32.23], p = 0.05). OSA was moderately correlated with vascular (r = 0.26, p = 0.01) and metabolic syndrome (r = 0.26, p = 0.01) multimorbidity sub-scores.
Conclusions: This study showed that severe OSA is associated with severe multimorbidity and sub-scores of multimorbidity. These results do not allow any causal inference. More research is required to confirm these associations. However, primary care providers should be aware of these potential associations and investigate OSA when deemed appropriate.