Novel imaging techniques using computer methods for the evaluation of the upper airway in patients with sleep-disordered breathing: a comprehensive review

Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Dec;12(6):437-47. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2008.07.009. Epub 2008 Oct 15.


Patients with sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD) can be treated with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) or with several upper airway (UA) interventions. While nCPAP is almost always effective when clinically well tolerated, the therapeutic outcome of UA surgery and UA devices is difficult to predict. The improvement of our capability to perform the latter predictions more accurately is of great clinical importance since it will prevent patients to be treated with ineffective, sometimes irreversible, techniques. In this review we describe the importance of new imaging methods in this respect. We first refer to the most important pathophysiological mechanisms known so far to play a role in SRBD, indicating that functional imaging could elucidate these mechanisms in a patient specific manner. Then we describe the new technologies that make UA imaging more functional referring to the data as they are presently available. Finally we summarise the studies that do indicate that the use of functional imaging of the UA in SRBD patients may significantly help to predict the clinical outcome after UA interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Resistance / physiology
  • Child
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Manometry
  • Pharynx / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*