Background Both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and a novel lipocalin, neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin (Ngal), have been reported to be closely linked with cardiovascular disease and loss of kidney function through chronic inflammation. However, the relationship between OSA and Ngal has never been investigated. Objectives To evaluate the relationship between Ngal and OSA in clinical practice. Methods In 102 patients, polysomnography was performed to diagnose OSA and plasma Ngal levels were measured. The correlations between Ngal levels and OSA severity and other clinical variables were evaluated. Of the 46 patients who began treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), Ngal levels were reevaluated after three months of treatment in 25 patients. Results The Ngal level correlated significantly with OSA severity as determined by the apnea hypopnea index (r = 0.24, p = 0.01) and 4% oxygen desaturation index (ODI) (r = 0.26, p = 0.01). Multiple regression analysis showed that the Ngal level was associated with 4%ODI independently of other clinical variables. Compliance was good in 13 of the 25 patients who used CPAP. Although the OSA (4%ODI: 33.1±16.7 to 1.1±1.9/h, p<0.01) had significantly improved in those with good compliance, the Ngal levels were not significantly changed (60.5±18.1 before CPAP vs 64.2±13.9 ng/ml after CPAP, p = 0.27). Conclusions Plasma Ngal levels were positively associated with the severity of OSA. However, the contribution rate of OSA to systemic Ngal secretion was small and changes in Ngal levels appeared to be influenced largely by other confounding factors. Therefore, it does not seem reasonable to use the Ngal level as a specific biomarker of OSA in clinical practice.
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