We have discussed sleep, and the fact that problems with obstructive sleep apnea may put folks at risk for many other health problems. Recently, a study found that a large number of patients who had stents placed in their coronary arteries had sleep apnea without daytime symptoms.

Sleep apnea is a problem that occurs during sleep. The symptoms of sleepiness and drowsiness occur while awake. A history of these symptoms is what usually prompts an investigation. However, this study found that most of the patients had no daytime symptoms, and did not even have abnormal scores on standard tests designed to screen for symptoms. After four years of follow up, it was found that coronary artery disease patients with sleep apnea had nearly twice the risk of serious complications.

We know that there is a strong association between sleep apnea and a number of cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, stroke, and heart failure. The data now suggests that sleep apnea may present differently in patients with coronary artery disease. The usual symptoms and performance on screening tests may miss a large number of cases of sleep apnea.

What does this all mean for you? If you are a patient with coronary artery disease, even if you have had stents placed, you may still be at significant risk for complications due to sleep apnea, even if you have little or no daytime symptoms. Talk to your doctor or a sleep physician at the Lung Disease Center.