Patients with heart failure or OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea) have reduced HF-HRV (high-frequency heart rate variability), indicating reduced cardiac vagal modulation, a marker of poor prognosis. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) abolishes OSA in patients with heart failure, but effects on daytime HF-HRV have not been determined. We hypothesized that, in patients with heart failure, treatment of coexisting OSA by CPAP would increase morning HF-HRV. In 19 patients with heart failure (left ventricular ejection fraction <45%) and OSA (≥20 apnoeas and hypopnoeas/h of sleep), HF-HRV was quantified before and 1 month after randomization to a control or CPAP-treated group. In the control group (n=7), there were no changes in HF-HRV over the 1 month study during wakefulness in the morning. In the CPAP-treated group (n=12) HF-HRV increased significantly during wakefulness in the morning [from 2.43±0.55 to 2.82±0.50 log(ms2/Hz); P=0.002] due to an increase in transfer function between changes in lung volume and changes in HF-HRV (92.37±96.03 to 219.07±177.14 ms/l; P=0.01). In conclusion, treatment of coexisting OSA by nocturnal CPAP in patients with heart failure increases HF-HRV during morning wakefulness, indicating improved vagal modulation of heart rate. This may contribute to improved prognosis.

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