Cardiovascular and ventilatory acclimatization induced by chronic intermittent hypoxia: A role for the carotid body in the pathophysiology of sleep apnea
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) show augmented ventilatory, sympathetic and cardiovascular responses to hypoxia. The facilitatory effect of chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) on the hypoxic ventilatory response has been attributed to a potentiation of the carotid body (CB) chemosensory response to hypoxia. However, it is a matter of debate whether the effects induced by CIH on ventilatory responses to hypoxia are due to an enhanced CB activity. Recently, we studied the effects of short cyclic hypoxic episodes on cat cardiorespiratory reflexes, heart rate variability, and CB chemosensory activity. Cats were exposed to cyclic hypoxic episodes repeated during 8 hours for 4 days. Our results showed that CIH selectively enhanced ventilatory and carotid chemosensory responses to acute hypoxia. Exposure to CIH did not increase basal arterial pressure, heart rate, or their changes induced by acute hypoxia. However, the spectral analysis of heart rate variability of CIH cats showed a marked increase of the low/high frequency ratio and an increased variability in the low frequency band of heart rate variability, similar to what is observed in OSA patients. Thus, it is likely that the enhanced CB reactivity to hypoxia may contribute to the augmented ventilatory response to hypoxia.