Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS)

Table of Contents

Alternative Names

Pickwickian syndrome


The treatment involves breathing assistance using special machines (mechanical ventilation). Options include:

  • Non-invasive mechanical ventilation (BiPAP or other modes) through a mask that fits tightly over the nose or nose and mouth (mainly for sleep)
  • Mechanical ventilation through an incision in the neck (tracheostomy)
  • Oxygen

Other treatments are aimed at weight loss, which can reverse OHS.

Support Groups

Support groups can help patients with OHS, or their family members, adjust to the lifestyle changes needed for treatment to be successful. Also, support groups can offer information about new treatments.

Expectations (prognosis)

Untreated, it can lead to serious heart and blood vessel problems, severe disability, or death. Chronic sleeping problems may also increase the chance of having a motor vehicle accident.


Complications of OHS have to do with a lack of sleep, such as:

  • Increased risk for accidents
  • Depression, agitation, irritability
  • Sexual dysfunction

OHS can also include heart problems, such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Right heart failure (cor pulmonale)

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you are very tired during the day, or have any other symptoms that suggest OHS.

Review Date: 08/17/2009
Reviewed By: David A. Kaufman, M.D., Section Chief, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Bridgeport Hospital-Yale New Haven Health System, and Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (