Hypoxic Burden in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Present and Future

Arch Bronconeumol. 2023 Jan;59(1):36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.arbres.2022.08.005. Epub 2022 Sep 5.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Conventional measures of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) severity, such as the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and oxygen desaturation index (ODI) are commonly used to quantify OSA severity and guide therapeutical decision-making processes. However, it is widely recognized that both AHI and ODI have important limitations and novel physiologically-informed metrics are needed to better capture the severity of OSA and characterize its physiological consequences, particularly the severity of recurrent nocturnal hypoxemia, ensuing the respiratory events. According to recent studies, the sleep apnea-specific "hypoxic burden (HB)", defined as the sum of individual areas under the oxygen desaturation curve, has shown some promise in identifying high risk individuals with OSA. In addition to the frequency of respiratory events, HB capture the depth and duration of OSA-related hypoxemia that may prove to be important disease characterizing features, not captured by the conventional "frequency-based" metrics, such as AHI and ODI. In this "perspective" paper the methods to quantify the HB, its characteristics, associations with health outcomes, and its limitations will be discussed.

Keywords: Blood pressure; Cardiovascular diseases; Chronic kidney disease; Heart failure; Hypoxic burden; Ischemic heart disease; Mortality; Stroke.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Oxygen
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / etiology


  • Oxygen