Research presented at the International Stroke Conference 2014 show that people who had strokes that affected their brain stems have a much higher likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnea than those who had strokes that affected other parts of the brain.

The research team from the University of Michigan looked at the medical records of 355 ischemic stroke patients, and found that 84 percent had sleep apnea. In patients with other types of strokes, post stroke sleep apnea was only at 59 percent. The average age of the participants was 65 years of age.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is most commonly identified by snoring and pauses in breathing patterns while sleeping. Sleep apnea has been linked to many negative health outcomes, including heart disease and stroke.

Further research would need to be done to see what the outcome is of OSA post stroke, and if OSA’s presence increases the likelihood of a second stroke. The researchers suggest that more research be done before screening all post-stroke patients for OSA become part of stroke treatment guidelines.

If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke and experiences irregular breathing, excessive snoring, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, a sleep study to rule out OSA is the best place to start in your search for relief.

By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT