Obstructive sleep apnea as a risk factor for cerebral white matter change in a middle-aged and older general population

Sleep. 2013 May 1;36(5):709-715B. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2632.


Study objective: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) contributes to the development of systemic hypertension, and hypertension strongly predicts the development of white matter change (WMC). Thus, it is plausible that OSA mediates WMC. The goal of the current study is to determine whether a contextual relationship exists between OSA and cerebral WMC.

Design: Cross-sectional analyses conducted in a population-based study.

Setting: Korean community-based sample from the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study (KoGES) who attended examinations in 2011 at a medical center.

Participants: There were 503 individuals (mean ± SD, age 59.63 ± 7.48 y) who were free of previously diagnosed cardiovascular and neurologic diseases.

Measurements and results: Participants underwent 1-night polysomnography and were classified as no OSA (obstructive apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] < 5, n = 289), mild OSA (AHI 5-15, n = 161), and moderate to severe OSA (AHI ≥ 15, n = 53). WMC was identified with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and was found in 199 individuals (39.56%). Multivariate logistic regression analyses adjusted for covariates revealed that moderate to severe OSA was significantly associated with the presence of WMC (odds ratio [OR] 2.08, 95%, confidence interval [CI] 1.05-4.13) compared with no OSA. Additional adjustment of hypertension to the model did not alter the significance of the association (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.02-4.05).

Conclusions: Moderate to severe OSA is an independent risk factor for WMC in middle-aged and older individuals. Thus, early recognition and treatment of OSA could reduce the risk of stroke and vascular dementia.

Keywords: General population; obstructive sleep apnea; stroke; white matter change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Republic of Korea
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / pathology*