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Physiology in Medicine: Obstructive sleep apnea pathogenesis and treatment—considerations beyond air

We review evidence in support of significant contributions to the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from pathophysiological factors beyond the well-accepted importance of airway anatomy. Emphasis is placed on contributions from neurochemical control of central respiratory motor output through its effects on output stability, upper airway dilator muscle activation, and arousability. In turn, we consider the evidence demonstrating effective treatment of OSA via approaches that address each of these pathophysiologic risk factors. Finally, a case is made for combining treatments aimed at both anatomical and ventilatory control system deficiencies and for individualizing treatment to address a patient's own specific risk factors.

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