In patients with heart failure, enhanced ventilatory response to exercise is associated with severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Bittencourt L; Javaheri S; Servantes DM; Pelissari Kravchychyn AC; Almeida DR; Tufik S;

Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine [J Clin Sleep Med] 2021 May 05. Date of Electronic Publication: 2021 May 05.

Study Objectives: Patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) while undergoing exercise test, frequently exhibit elevated ratio of minute ventilation over CO₂ output (VE/VCO₂ slope). One of the factors contributing to this elevated slope is increased chemosensitivity to CO₂, as this slope significantly correlates with the slope of the ventilatory response to CO₂ rebreathing at rest. A previous study in patients with CHF and central sleep apnea (CSA) has shown the highest VE/VCO2 slope during exercise was associated with the most severe CSA. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that in patients with CHF and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the highest VE/VCO₂ slope is also associated with most severe OSA. If correct, it implies that in CHF, augmented instability in the negative feedback system controlling breathing predisposes to both OSA and CSA.
Methods: This preliminary study involved 70 patients with stable CHF and spectrum of OSA severity who underwent full night polysomnography, echocardiography, and cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Peak oxygen consumption (VO₂ max) and VE/VCO₂ slope were calculated.
Results: There were significant positive correlations between apnea hypopnea index (AHI) and VE/VCO₂ slope (r= 0.359; p=0.002). In the regression model, involving relevant variable, age, body mass index, gender, VE/VCO₂ slope, VO₂, and left ventricular ejection fraction, AHI retained significance with VE/VCO₂.
Conclusions: In patients with CHF, the VE/VCO₂ slope obtained during exercise correlates significantly to the severity of OSA suggesting that an elevated CO₂ response should increase suspicion for presence of severe OSA, a treatable disorder that is potentially associated with excess mortality.