Image of cardiovascular system.The abnormal breathing patterns associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lead to cardiovascular disease in women, according to the results of a study led by researchers from the division of maternal-fetal medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

Analysis found that reproductive age women with OSA and cardiac symptoms have a 31 percent incidence of cardiac dysfunction, according to researchers.

The study analyzed sleep lab data and individual transthoracic echocardiogram results for 1,265 women, ages 15 to 45, who met the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) criteria for OSA based on nocturnal polysomnogram testing.

Results categorized women into three groups of AHI severity:

  • 665 (53%) mild
  • 305 (24%) moderate
  • 295 (23%) severe

Women with mild and severe AHI were similar in age, race and Body Mass Index, researchers said.

“As obesity rates increase among reproductive age women, the frequency of obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease in pregnancy is anticipated to rise,” said Laura K.P. Vricella, MD, a fellow of maternal-fetal medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center. “Further investigation is needed to understand the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease and their impact on pregnant women,” said Vricella.

The results of the study will be presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting on February 15 in San Francisco.

An abstract of the study is available on the The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s website.