Comparative effects of two oral appliances on upper airway structure in obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep. 2011 Apr 1;34(4):469-77. doi: 10.1093/sleep/34.4.469.


Study objectives: Oral appliances are increasingly being used for treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Mandibular advancement splint (MAS) mechanically protrudes the mandible, while the tongue stabilizing device (TSD) protrudes and holds the tongue using suction. Although both appliances can significantly improve or ameliorate OSA, their comparative effects on upper airway structure have not been investigated.

Design: Cohort study.

Setting: Sleep Investigation Unit.

Patients: 39 patients undergoing oral appliance treatment for OSA.

Interventions: OSA patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the upper airway during wakefulness at baseline and with MAS and TSD in randomized order. Treatment efficacy was determined by polysomnography in a subset of 18 patients.

Measurements and results: Upper airway lumen and surrounding soft tissue structures were segmented using image analysis software. Upper airway dimensions and soft tissue centroid movements were determined. Both appliances altered upper airway geometry, associated with movement of the parapharyngeal fat pads away from the airway. TSD increased velopharyngeal lateral diameter to a greater extent (+0.35 ± 0.07 vs. +0.18 ± 0.05 cm; P<0.001) and also increased antero-posterior diameter with anterior displacement of the tongue (0.68 ± 0.04 cm; P<0.001) and soft palate (0.12 ± 0.03 cm; P<0.001). MAS resulted in significant anterior displacement of the tongue base muscles (0.35 ± 0.04 cm). TSD responders (AHI reduction ≥50%) increased velopharyngeal volume more than non-responders (+2.65 ± 0.9 vs. -0.44 ± 0.8 cm(3); P < 0.05). Airway structures did not differ between MAS responders and non-responders.

Conclusions: These results indicate that the patterns and magnitude of changes in upper airway structure differ between appliances. Further studies are warranted to evaluate the clinical relevance of these changes, and whether they can be used to predict treatment outcome.

Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging; mandibular advancement splints; obstructive sleep apnoea; tongue stabilising device; upper airway.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Tongue / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome