OSA and pulmonary hypertension: time for a new look

Chest. 2015 Mar;147(3):847-861. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-0614.


OSA is a common yet underdiagnosed disorder encountered in everyday practice. The disease is a unique physiologic stressor that contributes to the development or progression of many other disorders, particularly cardiovascular conditions. The pulmonary circulation is specifically affected by the intermittent hypoxic apneas associated with OSA. The general consensus has been that OSA is associated with pulmonary hypertension (PH), but only in a minority of OSA patients and generally of a mild degree. Consequently, there has been no sense of urgency to screen for either condition when evaluating the other. In this review, we explore available evidence describing the interaction between OSA and PH and seek to better understand underlying pathophysiology. We describe certain groups of patients who have a particular preponderance of OSA and PH. Failure to recognize the mutual additive effects of these disorders can lead to suboptimal patient outcomes. Among patients with PH and OSA, CPAP, the mainstay treatment for OSA, may ameliorate pulmonary pressure elevations, but has not been studied adequately. Conversely, among patients with OSA, PH significantly limits functional capacity and potentially shortens survival; yet, there is no routine screening for PH in patients with OSA. We think it is time to study the interaction between OSA and PH more carefully to identify high-risk subgroups. These would be screened for the presence of combined disorders, facilitating earlier institution of therapy and improving outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / therapy
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Mass Screening
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome