Correlation between the severity of sleep apnea and upper airway morphology in pediatric and adult patients

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb;10(1):26-33. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e328334f659.


Purpose of review: Recent advances in upper airway imaging allow a better analysis of the upper airway morphology. With the increased accuracy of computed tomography, MRI and other imaging techniques, it becomes possible to identify very local changes in bony structure, soft tissues and lumen of the pharyngeal airway. These advances are able to provide new insights into obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) evaluation and treatment.

Recent findings: The present review intends to capture the current status of the research on the correlation between OSA severity and upper airway morphology. Morphological abnormalities that are responsible for OSA differ with age. Therefore, correlations between morphology and OSA in children and adults and the effects of puberty are discussed in different chapters. Literature provides several anatomical correlates that correlate with the severity of OSA but are not able to differentiate healthy individuals from OSA patients.

Summary: As anatomical correlates are not able to identify OSA in an individual, their main importance might lie in the selection of the ideal treatment on a patient-specific basis. Several sources report promising results in this use of morphological biomarkers. These, in combination with the new insights gained by the advances in imaging, should be the bases for additional research in the domain of treatment selection and result prediction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Airway Obstruction
  • Child
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System / pathology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / pathology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*