The researchers stressed that abnormal heartbeats were relatively rare, with sleep apnea increasing their incidence by one for every 40,000 breathing disturbances. But the potentially serious effect of those heartbeat errors requires alertness in detecting sleep apnea, Redline said.
Conversely, the study suggests that doctors should be alert for the possibility of sleep apnea in people who have heart rhythm abnormalities, Redline said. "Those who present with arrhythmias should be screened for apnea," she advised.
For now, the study is more of scientific interest than immediate medical application, added study author Dr. Ken Monahan, an assistant professor of medicine. "It adds additional evidence to what was already suggested in the literature," he said.
It is important to note that the relationship established in the new study, "was built on the work of others," he said. "It raises a lot of very interesting questions about what the ultimate clinical applications of other findings may be."
Find out more about sleep apnea at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Susan Redline, M.D., professor, medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; Ken Monahan, M.D., assistant professor, medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville; Nov. 3, 2009, Journal of the American College of Cardiology
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