Why do certain patients do poorly after heart surgery, or any other type of surgery? This study reveals that patients that suffered cardiovascular instability after bypass surgery had increased levels of an inflammatory marker, IL-6. Not too coincidentally, IL-6 has also been shown to be significantly elevated in people with obstructive sleep apnea.
We already know that a significant number of people with heart disease have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. Most cannot sleep on their backs. After surgery, they are forced to sleep on their backs. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to turn over to their sides either due to pain, or tethering due to monitors and leads. In addition, they are also given narcotic pain medications, which can depress your drive to breathe.
You can imagine how being forced to sleep on your back can increase the likelihood of apneas, leading to cardiac instability. I wrote a while back about my observation as a surgical intern that most heart attacks on a surgical floor happen in the early morning hours. Not too surprising that this is the same time heart attacks occur in people with obstructive sleep apnea.