Liver disease may be a possible side effect of severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), even without the obesity factor. The study included 163 patients referred to the Sleep Unit at Hospital Saint-Antoine in Paris with suspected OSA. The results of the study showed that 44% of the participants had severe OSA, 84% had moderate OSA, and 35% had no evidence of OSA.
As for liver damage, tests indicated abnormal results in 32% of the severe OSA group, 18% in the moderate OSA group, and 8.6% in the group without OSA. Further investigation revealed that severe OSA predicted abnormal tests, regardless of the participant's weight. Biopsies confirmed the presence of liver disease in a greater percentage of participants with severe OSA, compared with other groups.
Reporting in Hepatology (June 2005), the researchers suggested insulin resistance related to OSA, as well as direct lack of oxygen to the liver, as a possible reason for liver damage associated with OSA. They recommended testing for OSA in patients with liver disease that cannot be associated with another cause.