Adult obstructive sleep apnea: Pathophysiology and diagnosis

Susheel P. Patil, Hartmut Schneider, Alan R. Schwartz, Philip L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

324 Scopus citations


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent disease characterized by recurrent episodes of upper airway obstruction that result in recurrent arousals and episodic oxyhemoglobin desaturations during sleep. Significant clinical consequences of the disorder cover a wide spectrum, including daytime hypersomnolence, neurocognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and cor pulmonale. The major risk factors for the disorder include obesity, male gender, and age. Current understanding of the pathophysiologic basis of the disorder suggests that a balance of anatomically imposed mechanical loads and compensatory neuromuscular responses are important in maintaining upper airway patency during sleep. OSA develops in the presence of both elevated mechanical loads on the upper airway and defects in compensatory neuromuscular responses. A sleep history and physical examination is important in identification of patients and appropriate referral for polysomnography. Understanding nuances in the spectrum of presenting complaints and polysomnography correlates are important for diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Knowledge of common patterns of OSA may help to identify patients and guide therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-337
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical pressure
  • Diagnosis
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Pathophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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