Stroke Survivors with Untreated Sleep Apnea

Patients who have had a stroke who also have untreated obstructive sleep apnea have a very high risk of another stroke or death.  This information is from some research presented at the International Stroke Conference in 2018.  This is a conference presented by the American Stroke Association.  The conference is an annual meeting for researchers and clinicians.  It is dedicated to treatment of cerebrovascular problems.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a dangerous condition and 90% of those who have it are currently undiagnosed.  Patients who snore almost always have OSA.  This is a condition where there are pauses in breathing during sleep that last for 10 seconds or more and occur 5 times of more per hour of sleep.  Snoring, gasping during sleep, daytime tiredness, and unrefreshed feeling in the morning are symptoms of OSA.  More information can be found on my website


The group that did the research is the Brain Attack Surveillance from Corpus Christi, Texas, and it included 842 people with median age 65 who had already had an ischemic stroke.  They used portable sleep apnea-monitoring devices and found that 63% of the participants had 10 or more breathing pauses each hour.  This indicates that these patients have untreated obstructive sleep apnea.  These pauses in breathing last for at least 10 seconds and the average in patients with sleep apnea is about 20 seconds.  And these pauses occur after the patient breathes out—not after the patient breathes in.  Try it on yourself.

The researchers did follow-up and found that the median time to an event was 584 days.  And at that time, 10.7% of the participants had had another stroke and 14.8% had died.  And for each apneic event (pause in breathing) per hour, there was a 9% increase in the patient experiencing another stroke or death.

The abstract was published in the journal Stroke and the NHI (National Institutes of Health) funded the study.