According to a study appearing in the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology, sleep apnea is common in individuals who receive a kidney transplant and is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.

The researchers also found that kidney transplant patients are just as likely to have the sleep disorder as dialyzed kidney disease patients who are on the transplant waiting list, indicating that both types of patients who have sleep apnea should be considered at high risk for developing serious heart-related complications.

Working on the knowledge that cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in individuals who receive kidney transplants, Miklos Zsolt Molnar, MD, PhD, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary, and his colleagues studied the prevalence of sleep apnea in kidney transplant patients and the effects the condition had on their cardiovascular risk.

Kidney transplant patients with sleep apnea were more than twice as likely to be taking three or more anti-hypertensive drugs as patients without the sleep disorder, while still displaying higher blood pressure than patients who slept normally. When risk scores were calculated to predict patients’ risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke, kidney disease patients who had sleep apnea had twice the risk as patients without apnea.

“We propose that sleep apnea is a new risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular events in kidney transplanted patients,” said Molnar in an announcement about the study. “Physicians should screen transplant patients for obstructive sleep apnea and offer appropriate treatment.”