Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Sleep Apnea Health Center

Font Size

Heart Patients Must Treat Sleep Apnea

Deadly Atrial Fibrillation Recurs in Untreated Patients
WebMD Health News

May 28, 2003 -- If you've had atrial fibrillation, find out if you also have sleep apnea. Why? Without proper treatment, sleep apnea is very likely to make your heart problems return.

Atrial fibrillation is a dangerous condition in which the heart loses its rhythm and flutters wildly instead of beating regularly. It often leads to heart failure. Fortunately, doctors can use an electric device to shock the heart back into rhythm.

Sleep apnea is dangerous, too. It happens when a person's airway becomes blocked during sleep and oxygen levels become low. The most effective treatment is a device that pumps air into the nostrils as one sleeps, keeping the airway open. It's called CPAP, for continuous positive airway pressure.

Virend K. Somers, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., suspected that sleep apnea might lead to a return of atrial fibrillation. They studied 39 patients with sleep apnea. Twenty-five of them weren't using CPAP, and two others weren't using it every night.

Within a year, 82% of these 27 patients had another episode of atrial fibrillation. This happened to only 42% of patients treated for sleep apnea.

The researchers also studied 79 atrial fibrillation patients without sleep apnea at the beginning of the study. More than half -- 53% -- had another episode of atrial fibrillation. Many of these 79 patients were obese. Sleep apnea is common among obese people. Somers and colleagues suspect that recurring atrial fibrillation in many of these patients, too, was due to sleep apnea.

The researchers suggest that some atrial fibrillation patients should be screened for sleep apnea:

  • Those who are obese
  • Those whose spouses say they snore loudly
  • Those who have daytime sleepiness

The report appears in the May 27 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Today on WebMD

man wearing cpap
Know your myths from your facts.
man sleeping
What do they say about you?
man suffering from sleep apnea
You may need a sleep study.
exhausted and tired
Which type do you have?
Pet scan depression
Nighttime Heartburn
Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
Sleep Apnea Appliance
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
Sleep Apnea Clues
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
Breus Sleep Apnea