Small airways' function in Obstructive Sleep Apnea-Hypopnea Syndrome

Pulmonology. 2021 May-Jun;27(3):208-214. doi: 10.1016/j.pulmoe.2020.05.006. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Introduction and objectives: Most of the studies of the pathophysiology of Obstructive Sleep Apnea-Hypopnea Syndrome (OSAHS) focus on the collapsibility and obstruction of the upper airways. The aim of our study was the investigation of small airways' function in patients with OSAHS.

Materials and methods: We studied 23 patients (mean age, 51.6 years) diagnosed with mild to severe OSAHS, without comorbidities and 8 controls (mean age, 45.9 years). All subjects underwent full polysomnography sleep study; spirometry and maximum flow/volume curves while breathing room air and a mixture of 80%He-20%O2. The volume of equal flows (VisoV⋅) of the two curves and the difference of flows at 50% of FVC (ΔV˙max50) were calculated, as indicates of small airways' function.

Results: The results showed that VisoV⋅ was significantly increased in patients with OSAHS compared with controls (18.79±9.39 vs. 4.72±4.68, p=0.004). No statistically significantly difference was found in ΔV˙max50% (p=0.551); or the maximum Expiratory flow at 25-75% of FVC (p=0.067) and the maximum expiratory flow at 50% of FVC (p=0.174) breathing air.

Conclusions: We conclude that at the time of the diagnosis of OSAHS, the function of the small airways is affected. This could be due to breathing at low lung volumes and the cyclic closure/opening of the small airways and may affect the natural history of OSAHS. The findings could lead to new therapeutic implications, targeting directly the small airways.

Keywords: Heliox; Isoflow; Lung mechanics; Physiology; Sleep disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchioles / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*