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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2004 August;95(4):307-22

language: English, Italian

Sleep disordered breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Fanfulla F., Cascone L., Taurino A. E.


Sleep has effects on breathing, including changes in respiratory control, airways resistance and muscular contractility. These sleep-related modifications in the respiratory system do not induce adverse effects in healthy subjects, but may cause problems in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Hypo-ventilation causes the most important gas-exchange alteration during sleep in COPD patients, leading to hypercapnia and hypoxemia, especially during rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Blood gases alterations lead to increased arousals, sleep disruption, pulmonary hypertension and higher mortality. The presence of other sleep-related breathing disorders, like sleep apnea syndrome, may induce a more pronounced impairment of gas exchange, both during sleep and wakefulness, and development of symptoms like excessive daytime somnolence. Nocturnal oximetry is recommended to evaluate gas exchange during sleep in COPD patients. Sleep studies are usually indicated when there is a possibility of sleep apnea or obesity-hypoventilation syndrome. The role of non-invasive mechanical ventilation in managing COPD patients with nocturnal hypoventilation is discussed.

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