Does continuous positive airway pressure treatment affect autonomic nervous system in patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea?

Francesca Izzi, Fabio Placidi, Claudio Liguori, Benedetta Lauretti, Girolama A. Marfia, Antonio Pisani, Nicola B. Mercuri, Camilla Rocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study is aimed at evaluating whether Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment (CPAP) may affect autonomic nervous system (ANS) in male patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSAS). Methods: We compared autonomic symptoms of de novo severe OSAS patients, OSAS patients on chronic CPAP treatment and healthy controls, using the Scales for Outcome in Parkinson disease-Autonomic (SCOPA-AUT) questionnaire. All groups underwent cardiovascular function tests including head-up tilt test (HUTT), Valsalva maneuver, deep breathing, hand grip and cold face tests. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05. Results: Twelve de novo severe OSAS patients, 17 male OSAS on CPAP and 14 controls were studied. The mean SCOPA-AUT total score was significantly higher in de novo OSAS patients compared with controls. Regarding the distinct domains, both de novo OSAS and CPAP group had abnormalities in respect of controls in urinary sphere. In supine rest condition the baseline values of systolic blood pressure were significantly increased in untreated OSAS patients compared with controls, whereas the basal values of diastolic blood pressure were significantly higher in CPAP patients with respect to controls. After ten min of HUTT, diastolic blood pressure changes were significantly higher in controls compared to both OSAS groups. Untreated OSAS patients showed significant different responses at deep breathing compared to controls. Both OSAS groups had a significant reduction of reflex bradycardia at cold face test. Conclusions: Our study shows that both treated and untreated OSAS patients complain of subjective autonomic symptoms like other sleep disorders reinforcing the close relationship between sleep and autonomic activity. Furthermore, cardiovascular reflexes indicate a tendency to hypertension and a reduced sensitivity to stimuli during wakefulness even in OSA patients on CPAP treatment, suggesting potentially permanent autonomic function deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-72
Number of pages5
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 23 2017


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Cardiovascular reflexes
  • CPAP
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • SCOPA-Aut
  • Tilt test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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