Introduction: We have previously shown that plasma levels of orexin-A, a neuropeptide with an arousal-stimulating action, were decreased in parallel with the severity of the disease in patients with obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS).
Objective: To clarify the effects of nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) treatment on plasma orexin-A levels in patients with this syndrome.
Method: Sleep tests and blood sample collections were conducted at the sleep-related respiratory disorders clinic and the sleep laboratory of the Iwate Medical University Hospital. We studied 27 patients with OSAHS (apnea-hypopnea index [AHI], ≥ 20 by polysomnography) who were treated with nCPAP for 3 to 6 months. These patients were divided into the following two groups according to the arousal index (AI): group A (n = 11), ≥ 60; group B (n = 16), < 60. Plasma samples were obtained before and after the nCPAP treatment for 3 to 6 months. Plasma immunoreactive (IR)-orexin-A concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay after the extraction using cartridges.
Results: Plasma IR-orexin-A concentrations were inversely correlated with the AI (r = −0.807; p < 0.0001) and AHI (r = −0.661; p < 0.0001) in 27 patients before the nCPAP treatment. Mean (± SEM) plasma IR-orexin-A concentrations were significantly lower in group A (1.0 ± 0.3 pmol/L) than in group B (4.6 ± 0.4 pmol/L). Mean plasma IR-orexin-A concentrations were significantly increased after the nCPAP treatment in group A (to 3.4 ± 1.2 pmol/L; p = 0.0069), whereas they were not significantly changed in group B. The increases in plasma IR-orexin-A concentrations after the nCPAP treatment were in parallel with the improvements in AI and Epworth sleepiness scale (a marker of severity of daytime excessive sleepiness) score in group A.
Conclusions: The low plasma orexin-A levels were increased by the nCPAP treatment in patients with severe OSAHS, suggesting that orexin-A is a plasma marker that reflects the severity of OSAHS and the response to treatment.