Leukoaraiosis on MRI in patients with minimally symptomatic obstructive sleep apnoea.
Schulz UG., Mason RH., Craig SE., Howard S., Nicoll DJ., Kohler M., Rothwell PM., Stradling JR.
BACKGROUND: Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is associated with hypertension, nocturnal blood pressure (BP) surges, and increased risk of stroke. It may therefore also be associated with a higher risk of developing leukoaraiosis. Only few data about the prevalence of leukoaraiosis in patients with OSA, and any association between degrees of severity of either condition, exist. METHODS: We studied patients who were part of a clinical trial (MOSAIC) in minimally symptomatic OSA. All patients had brain MRI (T2, FLAIR) at baseline. A single observer assessed the images for the presence and severity of leukoaraiosis (ARWMC-score). We related the extent of leukoaraiosis to the severity of OSA (measured by oxygen desaturation index [ODI]) and the presence of other vascular risk factors. RESULTS: 183 patients (156 men, 85.2%; mean age ± SD = 57.7 ± 7.4 years; median oxygen desaturation index = 9.6, interquartile range = 4.6-16.0) took part in the study. Although 135 (74%) patients had some leukoaraiosis, this was generally mild. We confirmed the well-known risk factor associations between leukoaraiosis, increasing age (p < 0.0001) and hypertension (p = 0.003), but we did not find any association between OSA and leukoaraiosis (p = 0.33), despite both conditions being associated with increasing current BP and a history of hypertension. CONCLUSION: Our data confirm the well-known association between leukoaraiosis, age and increasing BP. However, we found no association between OSA and leukoaraiosis despite some shared risk factor associations. Our findings suggest that OSA is not a strong independent risk factor for leukoaraiosis. Confounding by hypertension may explain any apparent association in previously reported studies of patients with severer OSA.