Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is characterized by obesity, daytime hypercapnia, and sleep-disordered breathing in the absence of significant lung or respiratory muscle disease. Compared with eucapnic morbidly obese patients and eucapnic patients with sleep-disordered breathing, patients with OHS have increased health care expenses and are at higher risk of developing serious cardiovascular disease leading to early mortality. Despite the significant morbidity and mortality associated with this syndrome, diagnosis and institution of effective treatment occur late in the course of the syndrome. Given that the prevalence of extreme obesity has increased considerably, it is likely that clinicians will encounter patients with OHS in their clinical practice. Therefore maintaining a high index of suspicion can lead to early recognition and treatment reducing the high burden of morbidity and mortality and related health care expenditure associated with undiagnosed and untreated OHS. In this review we define the clinical characteristics of the syndrome and review the pathophysiology, morbidity, and mortality associated with it. Last, we discuss currently available treatment modalities.
Keywords: Pickwickian syndrome, hypercapnia, sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure, noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation