Eight patients with obstructive sleep apnoea and a normal haemoglobin concentration underwent nocturnal studies during which oxyhaemoglobin saturation was recorded continuously with an ear oximeter and serum erythropoietin concentration was measured hourly by means of a radioimmunoassay. Serum erythropoietin concentrations remained within the normal range throughout the study despite falls in oxyhaemaglobin saturation in individuals to 33-78%. There was no relation between the degree of nocturnal hypoxaemia and serum erythropoietin concentrations. The brief cyclical episodes of hypoxaemia typical of obstructive sleep apnoea may not be a sufficient stimulus for erythropoietin secretion.
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