Background: Sleep apnea (SA) was reported as possibly exacerbating symptoms of COVID-19, a disease induced by SARS-CoV-2 virus. The same comorbidities are common with both pathologies. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence, characteristics of SA and variation in AHI three months after severe COVID-19 requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission.
Methods: A prospective cohort of patients admitted to ICU for severe COVID-19 underwent an overnight home polygraphy 3 months after onset of symptoms, as part of a comprehensive follow-up program (pulmonary function tests, 6-minute walk tests and chest CT-scan). Patients with an apnea hypopnea index (AHI) ≥5 were considered as having SA. We performed a comparative descriptive analysis of 2 subgroups according to the existence, severity of SA and indication for effective SA treatment: patients with absent or mild SA (AHI <15) vs patients with moderate to severe SA (AHI ≥15).
Results: Among 68 patients included, 62 (91%) had known comorbidities (34 hypertension, 21 obesity, 20 dyslipidemia, 16 type 2 diabetes). It has been observed a preexisting SA for 13 patients (19.1%). At 3 months, 62 patients (91%) had SA with 85.5% of obstructive events. Twenty-four patients had no or a mild SA (AHI <15) and 44 had moderate to severe SA (AHI ≥15). Ischemic heart disease exclusively affected the moderate to severe SA group. Except for thoracic CT-scan which revealed less honeycomb lesions, COVID-19 symptoms were more severe in the group with moderate to severe SA, requiring a longer curarization, more prone position sessions and more frequent tracheotomy.
Conclusion: SA involved 91% of patients in our population at 3 months of severe COVID-19 and was mainly obstructive type. Although SA might be a risk factor as well as consequences of ICU care in severe COVID-19 infection, our results underline the importance of sleep explorations after an ICU stay for this disease.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; intensive care unit; obstructive sleep apnea syndrome; pneumonia.