The influence of a constant increase in functional residual capacity on apnoea characteristics was studied in patients with the sleep apnoea syndrome. Pulmonary inflation was achieved by applying a continuous negative extrathoracic pressure into a Poncho type respirator. Nine patients slept in the Poncho for two consecutive nights, negative extrathoracic pressure being applied during the second night. There was no difference in the total sleep time, its composition within the different sleep stages, the apnoea and apnoea-hypopnoea indices, or the sleep time spent in apnoea between the two nights. The mean (SD) apnoea duration increased with negative extrathoracic pressure from 25.3 (2) to 30.5 (3) seconds (p = 0.003) and time spent in obstructive apnoea (percentage of apnoea time) from 56 (13) to 75 (8) (p = 0.02). The mixed apnoea time (%) decreased from 37 (7) to 21 (7) (p = 0.02). Despite the increase in apnoea duration, less time was spent below each oxygen saturation value during negative extrathoracic pressure. The results were similar for apnoeic episodes during non-REM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, whereas no significant modifications were seen during REM sleep. It is concluded that the composition of apnoea time and resulting oxygen desaturation are influenced by lung volume.
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