Pulse rate variability as detected by pulse oximetry could serve as a useful biomarker for stroke risk stratification in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to the results of a recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers measured pulse rate variability via overnight oximetry during diagnostic sleep studies in patients with OSA having 5 or more events per hour. The primary study outcome was first episode of stroke. Standard deviation of normal-to-normal beat intervals and successive normal-to-normal differences were used to retrospectively correlate pulse rate variability to health outcomes.

Among the 6075 stroke-free patients with OSA, the mean age was 62 years and the average apnea-hypopnea index was 28 events per hour. A total of 2536 patients were correctly treated via positive airway pressure and 3539 patients were nonadherent to positive airway pressure or did not receive any active OSA therapy.

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