Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Atrial Fibrillation: Pathophysiology and Implications for Treatment

Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2015 Jun;14(2):81-5. doi: 10.1097/HPC.0000000000000044.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is increasingly recognized as an important risk factor for arrhythmogenesis. Epidemiological and clinical studies have suggested a strong association between OSA and atrial fibrillation (AF). With the increasing global epidemic of obesity, the incidence of OSA is also expected to rise. Various mechanisms mediated through adverse electrical and structural changes have been proposed to explain the increased risk of AF in patients with OSA. Multiple studies have also observed a greater risk of AF recurrence after cardioversion and catheter ablation (CA) in the patients with untreated OSA. The epidemiological and pathophysiological associations between OSA and AF have significant implications on the treatment outcomes of rhythm-control strategies for AF. Adequate screening and optimal management of OSA are of key importance to help improve the clinical outcomes following cardioversion and CA. In this review, we sought to describe the role of various mechanisms by which OSA mediates the pathogenesis of AF and contributes to adverse outcomes following CA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Catheter Ablation*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure*
  • Electric Countershock*
  • Humans
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*