Purpose: Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is proinflammatory and is associated with cardiovascular (CV) disease. We investigated the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) metabolic activity in a pilot group of patients using positron-emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI) with18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) tracer as a novel marker of adipose tissue inflammation. Patients and Methods: We analyzed patients from an ongoing study, recruiting those with newly diagnosed, untreated OSA (Respiratory Disturbance Index [RDI] ≥ 5), using home sleep apnea testing (WatchPAT-200 Central-Plus). PET/MRI scans were acquired before continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)-initiation, and after 3 months of CPAP therapy. Adipose tissue metabolic activity (18F-FDG-uptake) was measured using standardized uptake values (SUV) within the adipose tissue depots. The primary outcome was VAT SUVmean, and secondary outcomes included VAT volume, and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) volume/SUVmean. Reproducibility and reliability of outcome measures were analyzed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Multivariable linear regression was used to evaluate the association between OSA and primary/secondary outcomes. Results: Our analytical sample (n = 16) was 81% male (mean age 47 ± 15 years, mean BMI of 29.9 ± 4.8kg/m2). About 56% had moderate to severe OSA (mean RDI 23 ± 6 events/ hour), and 50% were adherent to CPAP. We demonstrated excellent inter/intra-rater reliability and reproducibility for the primary and secondary outcomes. Patients with moderate-to-severe OSA had a higher VAT SUV mean compared to those with mild OSA (0.795 ± 0.154 vs 0.602 ± 0.19, p = 0.04). OSA severity was positively associated with VAT SUVmean (primary outcome), adjusted for age and BMI (B [SE] = 0.013 ± 0.005, p = 0.03). Change in VAT volume was inversely correlated with CPAP adherence in unadjusted analysis (B [SE] = −48.4 ± 18.7, p = 0.02). Conclusion: Derangements in VAT metabolic activity are implicated in adverse cardiometabolic outcomes and may be one of the key drivers of CV risk in OSA. Our results are hypothesis-generating, and suggest that VAT should be investigated in future studies using multi-modal imaging to understand its role as a potential mediator of adverse cardiometabolic risk in OSA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1943-1953
Number of pages11
JournalNature and Science of Sleep
StatePublished - 2021


  • MRI
  • OSA
  • PET
  • Sleep apnea
  • Visceral adipose tissue


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