Risk for Pneumonia May Be Higher in Those With Sleep Apnea

Pneumonia developed more frequently in people with sleep apnea than in those without, according to research from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan.

The nearly 18 million Americans with sleep apnea may be at a higher risk for pneumonia than people without, according to research published in Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Researchers from Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan followed 6,816 patients with sleep apnea and 27,284 additional participants from Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2010 to explore the link between sleep apnea and pneumonia cases.

The researchers concluded pneumonia developed more frequently in people with sleep apnea than in the control group. The participants with pneumonia tended to be older with more comorbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other diseases.

“Our results also demonstrated exposure-response relation in that patients with more severe sleep apnea may have a higher risk of pneumonia than patients with sleep apnea of milder severity,” the authors wrote.

Previous smaller-scaled studies had established a connection, but this study reveals sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for incident pneumonia. This study differed from the others because it focused on a wider spectrum of sleep apnea patients: both those who needed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and those who did not. The risk for pneumonia was even higher among patients who received CPAP therapy throughout the observation period.