Objective: There is an increased risk of patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) to have stroke or cardiac infarcts. Besides hypertension, epinephrine-induced platelet activation could be a further reason for the increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in OSAS.
Methods: During a 4-month period (August 1994 to December 1994) we recruited prospectively 76 patients referred for polysomnograms because of a suspected sleep disorder such as OSAS.
Results: Fifty patients had no respiratory events during sleep (non-OSAS), 19 patients had more than five but less than 50 obstructive apneas or hypopneas per hour of total sleep time (mild-to-moderate OSAS group), and seven patients had an apnea hypopnea index of more than 50 per hour of total sleep time (severe OSAS group). Blood pressure, plasma epinephrine levels, and P-selectin expression (as a marker for platelet activation) were measured in every patient at 9 PM and 6 AM (before and after the polysomnogram). There was a significant correlation of the apnea hypopnea index with 9 PM and 6 AM systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with 9 PM platelet activation, and with 6 AM epinephrine levels mainly due to high values in the severe OSAS group.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that platelet activation, epinephrine, and high blood pressure play a role in the high prevalence of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular events in patients with OSAS.