The pharyngeal airway is surrounded by soft tissues that are also enclosed by bony structures such as the mandible, maxilla, and cervical spine. The passive pharyngeal airway is therefore structurally analogous to a collapsible tube within a rigid box. Cross-sectional area of the tube is determined by transmural pressure, the pressure difference between intraluminal and extraluminal pressures. Due to a lack of knowledge on the influence of extraluminal soft tissue pressure on the human pharyngeal airway patency, we hypothesized that application of negative external pressure to the submental region decreases collapsibility of the passive pharynx, and that obese individuals have less response to the intervention than nonobese individuals. Static mechanical properties of the passive pharynx were compared before and during application of submental negative pressure in 10 obese and 10 nonobese adult women under general anesthesia and paralysis. Negative pressure was applied through use of a silicone collar covering the entire submental region and a vacuum pump. In nonobese subjects, application of submental negative pressure (-25 and -50 cmH2O) significantly decreased closing pressures at the retropalatal airway by 2.3 ± 3.2 cmH2O and 2.0 ± 3.0 cmH2O, respectively, and at the retroglossal airway by 2.9 ± 2.7 cmH2O and 3.7 ± 2.6 cmH2O, respectively, and the intervention stiffened the retroglossal pharyngeal airway wall. No significant mechanical changes were observed during application of submental negative pressure in obese subjects. Conclusively, application of submental negative pressure was found to decreases collapsibility of the passive pharyngeal airway in nonobese Japanese women.
Keywords: closing pressure; obstructive sleep apnea; pathophysiology; pharynx; static mechanics; tissue pressure.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.