Anatomical balance of the upper airway and obstructive sleep apnea

Anesthesiology. 2008 Jun;108(6):1009-15. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318173f103.


Background: Obesity and craniofacial abnormalities such as small maxilla and mandible are common features of patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The authors hypothesized that anatomical imbalance between the upper airway soft-tissue volume and the craniofacial size (rather than each alone) may result in pharyngeal airway obstruction during sleep, and therefore development of OSA.

Methods: Blind measurements of tongue cross-sectional area and craniofacial dimensions were performed through lateral cephalograms in 50 adult male patients with OSA and 55 adult male non-OSA subjects with various craniofacial dimensions.

Results: Maxillomandibular dimensions were matched between OSA and non-OSA groups. While the tongue was significantly larger in subjects with larger maxillomandible dimensions, OSA patients had a significantly larger tongue for a given maxillomandible size than non-OSA subjects. The hypothesis was also supported in subgroups matched for both body mass index and maxillomandible dimensions.

Conclusions: Upper airway anatomical imbalance is involved in the pathogenesis of OSA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Weights and Measures / methods*
  • Facial Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Larynx / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Medical Illustration
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / anatomy & histology*
  • Polysomnography
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology*
  • Tongue / anatomy & histology*