Sleep Apnea and Kidney Transplants

Often, when someone is suffering from a chronic disorder, sleep apnea is also present for one reason or another. Lately chronic kidney disease has come into focus, as there is a much larger prevalence of sleep apnea sufferers in this population (16-54%) than the general public (2-4%). Sleep apnea has also been shown to hinder surgery recovery. So for those who get and receive a new kidney, how might sleep apnea affect recovery? Could the bodily stress that comes from frequent apneas and hypopneas hinder proper health after the transplant? Recently, a group of researchers, led by one at the University of Texas Health Center, set out to investigate this question.

The participant sample came from an existing database of adults who had previously undergone kidney transplant. Those with a known diagnosis of sleep apnea were excluded. One hundred of these participants underwent a full sleep study to assess the presence and severity of sleep apnea. Kidney function was assessed by analyzing each participant’s glomerular filtration rate, which quantifies how much blood passes through glomeruli (small filters in the kidney) each minute. This measure was collected every 6 months for about 6 years. Kidney health was compared to sleep apnea outcomes to see if there was a relationship between the two variables. So did sleep apnea contribute to a worsening of recovery following surgery?

Results showed that having a diagnosis of sleep apnea (an apnea-hypopnea index over 15 events per hour) did NOT affect recovery. Death rates following transplant and a poor recovery were not related to the presence or severity of apnea. What’s more, the glomerular filtration rate did not differ between the sleep apnea and the non-sleep apnea groups.

This result was obviously very surprising, as it was assumed the lack of oxygen and bodily stress that accompany sleep apnea would have a negative effect on kidney outcomes. Every once in a while, there is some good news that comes to sleep apnea sufferers. It is important to stress, though, that even though kidney transplant outcomes were not affected by sleep apnea, basically every other bodily function is! So get treated and stay treated.

Janna Mantua


Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.