THURSDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea show more signs of platelet activation and silent brain infarction lesions compared to those with mild or no sleep apnea, researchers report in the March 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Kenji Minoguchi, M.D., Ph.D., of Showa University in Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues measured silent brain infarction by magnetic resonance imaging, and serum levels of soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L) and soluble P-selectin in 50 male subjects with obstructive sleep apnea. The results were compared with obese control subjects.

Twenty-five percent of patients with severe sleep apnea had silent brain infarctions compared with 7.7 percent for those with mild sleep apnea and 6.7 percent for controls. Serum levels of both sCD40L and sP-selectin were both higher in moderate to severe sleep apnea patients compared to mild apnea and were reduced by nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) treatment.

"These results suggest that serum levels of sCD40L and sP-selectin are elevated and silent brain infarction is more common in patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, leading to elevated cerebrovascular morbidity," the authors conclude. "Moreover, nCPAP may be useful for decreasing risk in patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea."

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