Sleep Apnea May Raise A-Fib Risk in Patients With Pacemakers

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Sleep Apnea May Raise A-Fib Risk in Patients With Pacemakers
Sleep Apnea May Raise A-Fib Risk in Patients With Pacemakers

THURSDAY, May 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with pacemakers and sleep apnea are at much greater risk for atrial fibrillation, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society, held from May 4 to 7 in San Francisco.

"In recent years, pacemakers have increasingly become equipped with sleep apnea-monitoring measures, and in using these tools, we were able to identify how pacemaker patients with sleep apnea are at risk for developing atrial fibrillation," Andrea Mazza, M.D., from Santa Maria della Stella Hospital in Orvieto, Italy, said in a Heart Rhythm Society news release. "Our results are the first to show that patients with pacemakers and sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation."

In the study, 150 patients were checked for sleep apnea during the first week after receiving a pacemaker. Over the following eight months, atrial fibrillation occurred in 36 percent of the patients, including 28 percent of those who had no history of the arrhythmia, the researchers found. Severe sleep apnea was diagnosed in 85 patients, including 56 with no history of atrial fibrillation. Overall, those with severe sleep apnea had a three-fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation, but the risk was about six-fold higher among those with no history of atrial fibrillation.

"Now that we understand the connection, it's important that patients and doctors, collectively, are more diligent about monitoring for sleep apnea in order to engage in solutions that may prevent the development of atrial fibrillation and, possibly, thromboembolic complications," Mazza said.

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