Pharyngeal narrowing and closing pressures in patients with obstructive sleep apnea

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1993 Sep;148(3):606-11. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/148.3.606.


Based on previous studies, we hypothesized that the pharynx collapses at multiple sites in most patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The purpose of this study was to document, in a population of apneic subjects, the site(s) of narrowing and closing pressure of the hypotonic pharynx. We endoscopically examined the pharynx in 45 OSA patients during sleep while they received nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which produces hypotonia of pharyngeal muscles. Intrapharyngeal images and pressures were obtained at the end of expiration during single-breath tests (SBT). The fractional narrowing (FN) of each pharyngeal segment (nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx) was calculated as the relative change in area when nasal airway pressure was reduced from a pressure that held the pharynx fully distended to the pressure at which the airway closed. The frequency distribution of FN for the nasopharynx was skewed toward larger values, and the frequency was relatively evenly distributed for the oropharynx and hypopharynx. A site having FN greater than 0.75 was defined as a site of primary narrowing, and a site showing FN 0.25 to 0.75 was defined as a site of secondary narrowing. The nasopharynx was a site of primary narrowing in 80% of patients, and two or more sites of narrowing were commonly observed (82%). Four categories of combined narrowing were identified: (1) primary narrowing only at the nasopharynx (18%); (2) primary narrowing at the nasopharynx plus other sites of secondary narrowing (40%); (3) primary narrowing at the nasopharynx plus other sites of primary narrowing (22%); and (4) other patterns (20%).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • Endoscopes
  • Endoscopy / methods
  • Endoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Fiber Optic Technology / instrumentation
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / physiopathology*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Pressure
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*