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Pacemaker and sleep apnea link uncovered

14th March 2007

Almost 60 per cent of pacemaker patients have undiagnosed sleep apnea, a study has revealed.

Sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder characterised by 30 or more periods of interrupted breathing for each hour of sleep, often goes undiagnosed among the general population. But the study shows a clear link between the sleep disorder and heart disease.

The study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, of 98 individuals with pacemakers showed that 59 per cent of participants suffered from sleep apnea, 21 per cent of whom had it severely.

This can be compared to previous studies which have found that one fifth of the general population have the sleep disorder.

Dr Patrick Levy, lead author of the study, said: "Because of the excessive prevalence of undiagnosed sleep apnea we found, it could be recommended that all patients referred for a pacemaker should first be screened for sleep apnea."

The study could not determine whether sleep apnea preceded the pacemaker or developed after the introduction of the device.

It was concluded that further research is necessary to determine the optimal treatment for patients with a pacemaker and sleep apnea.