Journal of medical case reports 2017 08 2311(1) 234 doi 10.1186/s13256-017-1393-1
Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation is frequently prescribed to obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and obesity hypoventilation syndrome. However, mechanical ventilation with a positive end-expiratory pressure can induce or worsen a right-to-left shunt through a patent foramen ovale associated with systemic hypoxemia. Thus, in obese patients treated with noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, a paradoxical worsening of hypoxemia may reveal the existence of a patent foramen ovale.
A 50-year-old African woman was referred to our sleep center for severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and obesity hypoventilation syndrome. Because she had alveolar hypoventilation and had failed previous obstructive sleep apnea syndrome therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation was started. In May 2015, she had a normal residual apnea/hypopnea index calculated by the ventilator software with no hypoventilation. Six months later, severe hypoxemia without hypercapnia was noted. Contrast transthoracic echocardiography showed right-to-left shunt through a patent foramen ovale. This finding prompted a decrease in expiratory and inspiratory positive airway pressures, after which the ventilator software recorded a normal residual apnea/hypopnea index and the blood gas values improved.
Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation therapy for combined obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and obesity hypoventilation syndrome must be monitored by arterial blood gas measurements, both to reassess the hypercapnia and to look for worsening hypoxemia due to a patent foramen ovale.