New research from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation suggests that cardiac surgery patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at a higher risk for developing postoperative complications.

Researchers compared the incidence of cardiac surgery complications in 37 patients with OSA, identified through the cardiac surgery database, with another database sample absent of OSA. Patients, who underwent open-heart surgery within two years of an OSA diagnosis, were assumed to have had OSA at the time of surgery.

Researchers found that the patients with OSA exhibited a higher incidence of encephalopathy, postoperative infection, and increased length of intensive care unit stays. It is suggested that this risk is underestimated due to lack of OSA incidence awareness and that patients may need to be screened for OSA prior to cardiac surgery.

The findings of the study were presented at CHEST 2006, the annual scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians.