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Moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea is associated with cerebral small vessel disease


Background Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is associated with increased risk of cerebral infarction and hemorrhage. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is known to increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease. This study aimed to investigate the association between cerebral SVD and severity of OSA.

Methods A total of 170 patients were included from the patient registry at the present Sleep Center; these patients underwent both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and polysomnography (PSG) for suspected OSA. The presence and burden of white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), asymptomatic lacunar infarctions (ALIs), cerebral microbleeds (CMBs), and perivascular spaces (PVSs) were determined by MRI, and their relationships with the apnea–hypopnea index (AHI), as determined by PSG, were investigated.

Results Among the 170 patients, 25 (14.7%) had high-grade WMHs, 21 (12.4%) had ALIs, 21 (12.4%) had CMBs, and 34 (20.0%) had high-grade PVSs. In the multivariable analysis, after adjusting for factors including age, sex, and other variables for which p <0.1 in univariable analysis (hypertension, diabetes mellitus, previous stroke, minimal SaO2 and arousal index), moderate-to-severe OSA was associated with high-grade WMHs (odds ratio [OR] 4.72; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.14–19.47), CMBs (OR 3.47; 95% CI 0.89–15.18), or high-grade PVSs (OR 3.64; 95% CI 1.02–13.01), but not with ALIs. The total SVD score was independently associated with increased AHI (p = 0.017), particularly in patients with moderate-to-severe OSA (β [standard error] = 0.448 (0.204), p = 0.030].

Conclusion Moderate-to-severe OSA is positively associated with multiple indicators of cerebral SVD, including WMHs, CMBs, and PVSs.

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