Upper airway function and dysfunction in respiration

Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1999 Jan;26(1):1-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1681.1999.02988.x.


1. The upper airway not only provides a passage for air to be breathed in and out of the lungs, but it also heats, humidifies and filters the air and is involved in cough, swallowing and speech. 2. The complex muscle structure of the upper airway that produces speech and swallowing in humans also modulates respiratory airflow throughout the respiratory cycle, but is vulnerable to functional problems that may compromise respiration. 3. Even in normals, there is some collapse of the upper airway and increased upper airway resistance during sleep. 4. A substantial proportion of people suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea, in which the collapse of the upper airway is so great that respiration is compromised to the extent that arousal from sleep is required to restore adequate ventilation; the resulting disturbed sleep and hypoxia produce daytime sleepiness and neuropsychological and cardiorespiratory morbidity. 5. Functional abnormalities of the larynx can also occur, including prolonged inspiratory laryngeal dysfunction, brief upper airway dysfunction and expiratory laryngeal dysfunction or factitious asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Larynx / physiology*
  • Larynx / physiopathology
  • Mouth / physiology*
  • Mouth / physiopathology
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology*
  • Nasal Cavity / physiopathology
  • Pharynx / physiology*
  • Pharynx / physiopathology
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Respiration*