Skin sympathetic nerve activity in patients with obstructive sleep apnea

Wenbo He, Yuzhu Tang, Guannan Meng, Danning Wang, Johnson Wong, Gloria A. Mitscher, David Adams, Thomas H. Everett, Peng Sheng Chen, Shalini Manchanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with increased cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. We recently developed a new method (neuECG) to noninvasively measure electrocardiogram and skin sympathetic nerve activity (SKNA). Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that SKNA measured during sleep study is higher in patients with OSA than in those without OSA. Methods: We prospectively recorded neuECG and polysomnography in 26 patients undergoing a sleep study. Sleep stages were scored into rapid eye movement (REM), and non-REM sleep stages 1 (N1), 2 (N2), and 3 (N3). Average voltage of skin sympathetic nerve activity (aSKNA) and SKNA burst area were calculated for quantification. Apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) >5 per hour was used to diagnose OSA. Results: There was a positive correlation (r = 0.549; P = .018) between SKNA burst area and the arousal index in OSA but not in the control group. aSKNA during sleep was 0.61 ± 0.09 μV in OSA patients (n = 18) and 0.53 ± 0.04 μV in control patients (n = 8; P = .025). Burst area was 3.26 (1.90–4.47) μV·s/min in OSA patients and 1.31 (0.67–1.94) μV·s/min in control (P = .047). More apparent differences were found during N2, when the burst area in OSA (3.06 [1.46–5.52] μV·s/min) was much higher than that of the control (0.89 [0.79–1.65] μV·s/min; P = .03). Conclusion: OSA patients have higher SKNA activity than control patients, with the most pronounced differences observed during N2. Arousal at the end of apnea episodes is associated with large SKNA bursts. Overlaps of aSKNA and SKNA burst area between groups suggest that not all OSA patients have increased sympathetic tone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHeart Rhythm
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Skin sympathetic nerve activity
  • Sleep stages
  • Sleep-disordered breathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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  • Cite this

    He, W., Tang, Y., Meng, G., Wang, D., Wong, J., Mitscher, G. A., Adams, D., Everett, T. H., Chen, P. S., & Manchanda, S. (Accepted/In press). Skin sympathetic nerve activity in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Heart Rhythm.