The obesity-hypoventilation syndrome

West J Med. 1978 Nov;129(5):387-93.


The triad of obesity, hypoventilation and inordinate hypersomnolence characterizes the obesity-hypoventilation syndrome. The reasons for daytime hypoventilation appear related to decreased chemical drives to breathe combined with the added physical impediment of extreme obesity. When the physiology of sleep was investigated in patients with this syndrome, intermittent nocturnal obstructive apneas were documented that produced blood gas abnormalities, arrhythmias and serious elevations of both pulmonary and systemic pressures. The obstructive apneas are due to intermittent loss of muscle tone of the tongue resulting in its prolapse against the posterior pharynx. The special importance of the obesity-hypoventilation syndrome lies in its being an example of a disorder of sleep and breathing that can appear in widely different clinical settings. Therapeutic measures include weight loss, progestational agents or permanent tracheostomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / etiology
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoventilation / etiology
  • Hypoventilation / physiopathology
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome* / therapy
  • Progesterone / therapeutic use
  • Prolapse
  • Tongue Diseases / complications
  • Tracheotomy


  • Progesterone