Diuretic May Ease Sleep Apnea

Study of heart-failure patients found acetazolamide improved symptoms

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MONDAY, Jan. 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with heart failure who also suffer from troublesome and dangerous sleep apnea may find relief with the drug acetazolamide, a mild diuretic and respiratory stimulant, according to a small U.S. study.

The study found "significant improvement in patient perception of improved sleep quality, waking up more refreshed, with less daytime fatigue and sleepiness while taking acetazolamide, compared with placebo," study author Dr. Shahrokh Javaheri said in a prepared statement. Javaheri is with the pulmonary service in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and department of medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

People with sleep apnea suffer from repeat interruptions in breathing while asleep, sometimes waking hundreds of times a night.

The study included 12 men, average age 66, with stable heart failure who had more than 15 episodes per hour each night of sleep apnea. The patients were randomly selected to receive either a single dose of acetazolamide or a placebo before going to bed.

The patients who received the drug exhibited less sleep apnea, improved blood oxygen levels, and fewer daytime symptoms of sleepiness.

The findings were reported in the January issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Javaheri speculated that reductions in sleep apnea could help ailing hearts, as well. "We hypothesize that with long-term drug therapy, as sleep-related breathing disorders improve, it may be reflected in an improvement in cardiac function that will further improve periodic breathing, resulting in a positive feedback cycle," he said. "Improvement in sleep apnea may assist cardiac function by a variety of mechanisms such as improved oxygenation."

Javaheri said more long-term studies are needed in order to fully assess the effects of acetazolamide in heart-failure patients. The drug's main use has been in treating sleep apnea and breathing irregularities in people at high altitude.

More information

To learn more, visit the American Sleep Apnea Association.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Jan. 11, 2006

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