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Effect of Widespread Sleep Apnea Screening on Progression of Atrial Fibrillation

Published:September 06, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2022.07.034
      Sleep apnea (SA) is recognized as a predictor of incident atrial fibrillation (AF) and AF recurrence after treatment. However, data on the prevalence of SA phenotypes in patients with AF and the effect of widespread SA screening on AF outcomes are scarce. We conducted a retrospective study of patients with AF referred for SA testing between March 2018 and April 2020. The screening was performed using home sleep testing or polysomnography. AF outcomes were examined by assessment of AF progression as defined by a change from paroxysmal AF to persistent AF, change in antiarrhythmic drug, having an ablation or cardioversion. Of 321 patients evaluated for AF, 251 patients (78%) completed SA testing. A total of 185 patients with complete follow-up data and SA testing were included in our analysis: 172 patients (93%) had SA; 90 of those (49%) had primarily obstructive sleep apnea, 77 patients (42%) had mixed apnea, and 5 patients (3%) had pure central apnea. Time from AF diagnosis to SA testing was associated with AF progression; after 2 years, the risk of AF progression increased (p <0.008). Continuous positive airway pressure treatment did not affect AF progression (p = 0.99). In conclusion, SA is highly prevalent in an unselected population of patients with AF, with mixed apnea being present in over 40% of the population. Early SA testing was associated with decreased rates of AF progression, likely because of earlier and potentially more aggressive pursuit of rhythm control.
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