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Association of clinically significant obstructive sleep apnoea with risks of contracting COVID-19 and serious COVID-19 complications: a retrospective population-based study of health administrative data


Rationale/objectives — Despite plausible pathophysiological mechanisms, more research is needed to confirm the relationship between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and the risk of COVID-19 infection or COVID-19-related serious complications.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study using provincial health administrative data (Ontario, Canada). Adults with physician-diagnosed OSA who received positive airway pressure therapy in the 5 years prepandemic (OSA group) were propensity score matched by baseline characteristics to individuals in the general population at low risk of OSA (non-OSA group) using inverse probability of treatment weighting. Weighted HRs of (1) a positive COVID-19 test and (2) COVID-19-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and mortality, within 12 months of pandemic onset, were compared between groups. We also evaluated the impact of comorbid cardiometabolic or chronic airways disease.

Results — We identified and matched 324 029 individuals in the OSA group to 4 588 200 individuals in the non-OSA group. Compared with the non-OSA group, those in the OSA group were at a greater hazard of testing positive for COVID-19 (HR=1.17, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.21), having a COVID-19-related ED visit (HR=1.62, 95% CI 1.51 to 1.73), hospitalisation (HR=1.50, 95% CI 1.37 to 1.65) or ICU admission (HR=1.53, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.84). COVID-19-related 30-day mortality was not different (HR=0.98, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.16).

We found that for the OSA group, comorbid airways disease but not cardiometabolic conditions increased the hazards of COVID-19-related outcomes, including mortality.

Conclusion — In this large population-based study, we demonstrated that a recent diagnosis of OSA requiring treatment was associated with an increased hazard of testing positive for COVID-19 and serious COVID-19-related complications, particularly in those with co-existing chronic airways disease.



Kendzerska T, Povitz  M, Gershon AS, Ryan CM, Talarico R, Avecilla DAF, Robillard R, Ayas NT, Pendharkar SR. Thorax. 2023; 78(9):933-41. Epub 2023 Jan 30.

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