Lateral teleradiography of the head as a diagnostic tool used to predict obstructive sleep apnea

Dentomaxillofac Radiol. 2016;45(1):20150085. doi: 10.1259/dmfr.20150085. Epub 2015 Aug 3.


Objectives: To (1) assess the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and craniofacial, pharyngeal anatomy and (2) to submit the recommendations for clinicians for increasing the sensitivity in the diagnostics of OSA.

Methods: A review of the relevant literature linking OSA in adults with cephalometric analysis was performed. In total, 11 articles with similar procedural criteria were selected. The data were analysed using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis Software (Biostat Inc., Englewood, NJ) and Statistica 12.0 (StatSoft Inc., Dell Software, Tulsa, OK).

Results: Adults with OSA did not show statistically significant differences in the sagittal and vertical skeletal planes in comparison with the controls (p > 0.05). The patients with OSA had soft palate length, width and area increased accordingly by 4.21, 1.99 mm and 0.86 cm(2), tongue area increased by 2.02 cm(2), the upper posterior pharyngeal space (SPAS) and lower posterior pharyngeal space reduced accordingly by 4.53 and 1.32 mm, mandibular plane to the hyoid bone (MP-H) distance increased by 4.14 mm compared with the controls (p < 0.05). The SPAS parameter of the patients with OSA did not show statistically significant differences between the studies, with the mean value being 5.69 mm.

Conclusions: Analysed cephalometric data totally supported the concept of soft-tissue abnormalities in subjects with OSA, skeletal-only halfway; MP-H and SPAS being the most reliable parameters. Increased MP-H may serve as a predictor when differentiating normal subjects and patients with OSA. Reduced SPAS width could be a prognostic parameter for suspecting OSA. These two values should be kept in mind by dentists and can also be used as a simple auxiliary method by physicians; nevertheless, it is still underestimated and more studies are needed.

Keywords: cephalometry; craniofacial; hyoid bone; sleep apnoea; upper airway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cephalometry / methods*
  • Facial Bones / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyoid Bone / pathology
  • Mandible / pathology
  • Palate, Soft / pathology
  • Pharynx / pathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Tongue / pathology