Prevalence rates of atrial fibrillation (AF) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are rising on a global scale. Epidemiological data have consistently demonstrated an independent association between the 2 conditions. Investigators pose that pathophysiologic features of OSA enable progression of the AF substrate; these features include abnormalities of gas exchange, autonomic remodeling, atrial stretch, and inflammation. Furthermore, many of the mechanistic perturbations that impact the AF substrate in OSA can be substantially attenuated by effective treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Clear associations of OSA treatment and improved AF control have been observed across multiple clinical contexts. However, the precision and generalizability of these findings are unclear in view of the data's observational nature. Although risk factor management has emerged as a critical component of AF treatment, effective control of many AF risk factors can be challenging in the longer term. In view of the efficacy and sustainability of CPAP therapy, OSA raises its profile as a prime candidate for intervention. However, translation of this strategy to the broader framework for AF management requires robust data from randomized controlled trials.
- atrial fibrillation
- continuous positive airway pressure
- obstructive sleep apnea