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Understanding Phenotypes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Applications in Anesthesia, Surgery, and Perioperative Medicine

Subramani, Yamini MD; Singh, Mandeep MBBS, FRCPC; Wong, Jean MD, FRCPC; Kushida, Clete A. MD, PhD; Malhotra, Atul MD; Chung, Frances MBBS, FRCPC

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000001546
Patient Safety: Narrative Review Article
Continuing Medical Education

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent sleep-disordered breathing with potential long-term major neurocognitive and cardiovascular sequelae. The pathophysiology of OSA varies between individuals and is composed of different underlying mechanisms. Several components including the upper airway anatomy, effectiveness of the upper airway dilator muscles such as the genioglossus, arousal threshold of the individual, and inherent stability of the respiratory control system determine the pathogenesis of OSA. Their recognition may have implications for the perioperative health care team. For example, OSA patients with a high arousal threshold are likely to be sensitive to sedatives and narcotics with a higher risk of respiratory arrest in the perioperative period. Supplemental oxygen therapy can help to stabilize breathing in OSA patients with inherent respiratory instability. Avoidance of supine position can minimize airway obstruction in patients with a predisposition to upper airway collapse in this posture. In this review, the clinically relevant endotypes and phenotypes of OSA are described. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the treatment of choice for most patients with OSA but tolerance and adherence can be a problem. Patient-centered individualized approaches to OSA management will be the focus of future research into developing potential treatment options that will help decrease the disease burden and improve treatment effectiveness.

From the *Department of Anesthesiology, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Sleep and Pulmonary Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, University of California, Palo Alto, California; §Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California.

Accepted for publication July 8, 2016.

Funding: Supported by Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Conflict of Interest: See Disclosures at the end of the article.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Frances Chung, MBBS, FRCPC, Department of Anesthesiology, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, 399 Bathurst St, McL 2–405, Toronto, ON, Canada M5T 2S8. Address e-mail to

© 2017 International Anesthesia Research Society
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