Understanding Phenotypes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Applications in Anesthesia, Surgery, and Perioperative Medicine

Anesth Analg. 2017 Jan;124(1):179-191. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000001546.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent sleep-disordered breathing with potential long-term major neurocognitive and cardiovascular sequelae. The pathophysiology of OSA varies between individuals and is composed of different underlying mechanisms. Several components including the upper airway anatomy, effectiveness of the upper airway dilator muscles such as the genioglossus, arousal threshold of the individual, and inherent stability of the respiratory control system determine the pathogenesis of OSA. Their recognition may have implications for the perioperative health care team. For example, OSA patients with a high arousal threshold are likely to be sensitive to sedatives and narcotics with a higher risk of respiratory arrest in the perioperative period. Supplemental oxygen therapy can help to stabilize breathing in OSA patients with inherent respiratory instability. Avoidance of supine position can minimize airway obstruction in patients with a predisposition to upper airway collapse in this posture. In this review, the clinically relevant endotypes and phenotypes of OSA are described. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the treatment of choice for most patients with OSA but tolerance and adherence can be a problem. Patient-centered individualized approaches to OSA management will be the focus of future research into developing potential treatment options that will help decrease the disease burden and improve treatment effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Patient Positioning
  • Patient Selection
  • Perioperative Period
  • Phenotype
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Respiration*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Sleep*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wakefulness


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives