What is automatic breathing like when you are awake?

When the brain forgets to breathe


When the brain forgets to breathe

Privatdozent Dr. Olaf Oldenburg from the Heart and Diabetes Center NRW, Bad Oeynhausen, was honored for the best scientific presentation at this year's European Cardiology Congress (ESC) in Barcelona (photo Armin Kühn).

Science award for private lecturer Dr. med. Olaf Oldenburg

45 percent of all patients with impaired cardiac output (heart failure) suffer from moderate to severe breathing disorders during sleep (sleep apnea). This is the result of a first nationwide registry study (SCHLA-HF) with over 10,000 patients under the guidance of researchers from Bad Oeynhausen, Cologne, Hamburg-Eppendorf, Regensburg, Ulm and Essen. For the best scientific presentation as a moderated poster, Privatdozent Dr. Olaf Oldenburg, Senior Physician at the Clinic for Cardiology under the direction of Prof. Dr. Dieter Horstkotte at the Heart and Diabetes Center NRW (HDZ NRW), Bad Oeynhausen, recently received an award at the European Cardiology Congress in Barcelona.

It has long been known to medical professionals that abnormal respiratory arrests (apneas) during sleep can trigger chronic health disorders. A distinction is made between the more common obstructive and the rarer form of central sleep apnea; there are also mixed forms of both respiratory disorders. The research group wanted to find out how often patients with stable heart failure suffer from sleep-related breathing disorders. To this end, the scientists founded a broad, nationwide network of 91 resident cardiologists, 47 cardiological clinics and 66 sleep laboratories in Germany at the end of 2007. The creation and maintenance of this comprehensive database is funded by ResMed (Martinsried).

The registry study included data from over 10,000 patients who, according to the official criteria for the severity of physical fitness (NYHA classification), suffered from at least level 2 cardiac insufficiency. "The frequency of 45 percent with which we determine moderate to severe sleep apnea in heart failure patients confirms our clinical experience and the surveys in the HDZ NRW", Oldenburg explains the results of the study. The cardiologists think, however, that more than half of those affected (56 percent) suffer from the otherwise rare central sleep apnea, which is characterized by disorders of the respiratory regulation. "The respiratory muscles are not adequately controlled as a result. You could say that the brain simply forgets to breathe," says Oldenburg, describing the phenomenon. Here the nationwide register offers important approaches for further research.

Additional Information:

Heart and Diabetes Center North Rhine-Westphalia
University Clinic of the Ruhr University Bochum
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