Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition that has been associated with increased mortality, especially in individuals who have cardiac arrhythmia. A University of Arizona physician-scientist has received a grant to try to find out why.

Salma Patel, MD, MPH, an assistant professor and sleep medicine specialist in the UA Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, has won a $100,000 Career Development Award from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for her project, “Cardiorespiratory Interactions during Noninvasive Ventilation,” which will analyze the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Sleep Heart Health Study and Banner Health databases to understand the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and death.

Patel will review baseline markers of ventricular repolarization — the heart’s return to a resting state — in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. She will evaluate the markers’ impact on the mortality of sleep apneas/hypopneas (periods of no breathing/abnormally slow or shallow breathing) and methods used by patients who have breathing problems during sleep, such as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, devices.

Patel notes, “There is uncertainty over how to optimally use devices in individuals with sleep-disordered breathing and cardiac disease. The study aims, if successful, would be highly impactful and also could lead to clinical trials to evaluate alternative devices.”

Patel’s funding is an American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) Junior Faculty Award, which supports a two-year mentored research project for early-career faculty who are physician-scientists in sleep medicine.