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Nocturnal Dyspnea and Atrial Fibrillation Predict Cheyne-Stokes Respirations in Patients With Congestive Heart Failure

Joseph L. Blackshear, MD; Joseph Kaplan, MD; Randall C. Thompson, MD; Robert E. Safford, MD, PhD; Elizabeth J. Atkinson, MS
Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(12):1297-1302. doi:10.1001/archinte.1995.00430120081010.
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Background:  Cheyne-Stokes respirations have frequently been noted in highly selected groups of patients with congestive heart failure, but their prevalence in an unselected population with congestive heart failure is undefined.

Methods:  One hundred consecutive unselected outpatients or stable inpatients with clinical congestive heart failure encountered by three clinical cardiologists during a 6-month period were screened for Cheyne-Stokes respirations with overnight oximetry.

Results:  The mean age (±SD) of the patients was 70±8.6 years. Of the 100 patients, 33% had had previous coronary bypass surgery, 77% were men, 57% had hypertension, and 32% had atrial fibrillation. The mean ejection fraction (±SD) was 34%±13%. Periodic breathing was assessed qualitatively as Cheyne-Stokes respirations in 27% of patients, nonspecific sleep-disordered breathing (apneas and/or hypopneas) in 43%, and normal in 30%. For patients with Cheyne-Stokes respirations, patients with nonspecific sleep-disordered breathing, and normal subjects, the mean numbers of oxyhemoglobin desaturation events per hour were 24, 10, and 2, and the total numbers of desaturations of 4% or more that lasted less than 3 minutes were 172, 74, and 13. Independent predictors of Cheyne-Stokes respirations vs non—Cheyne-Stokes respirations included a history of nocturnal dyspnea (odds ratio, 4.00; 95% confidence interval, 1.33 to 12.04; P=.01) and atrial fibrillation (odds ratio, 3.24; 95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 8.48; P=.02).

Conclusions:  Cheyne-Stokes respirations and nonspecific sleep-disordered breathing are common in unselected patients with congestive heart failure, and Cheyne-Stokes respirations are predicted by a history of nocturnal dyspnea and the presence of atrial fibrillation. Techniques designed to modify the nocturnal breathing pattern of patients with congestive heart failure may be applicable to a large portion of the congestive heart failure population.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:1297-1302)


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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