Mouth leak with nasal continuous positive airway pressure increases nasal airway resistance

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1996 Jul;154(1):182-6. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.154.1.8680678.


Nasal congestion, dry nose and throat, and sore throat affect approximately 40% of patients using nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The mechanisms causing nasal symptoms are unclear, but mouth leaks causing high unidirectional nasal airflow may be important. We conducted a study to investigate the effects of mouth leak and the influence of humidification on nasal resistance in normal subjects. Nasal resistance was measured with posterior rhinomanometry in six normal subjects who deliberately produced a mouth leak for 10 min while using nasal CPAP. Nasal resistance was measured regularly for 20 min after the challenge. A series of tests were performed using air at differing temperatures and humidities. There was no change in nasal resistance when subjects breathed through their noses while on CPAP, but a mouth leak caused a large increase in resistance (at a flow of 0.5 L/s) from a baseline mean of 2.21 cm H2O/L/s to a maximum mean of 7.52 cm H2O/L/s at 1 min after the challenge. Use of a cold passover humidifier caused little change in the response (maximum mean: 8.27 cm H2O/L/s), but a hot water bath humidifier greatly attenuated the magnitude (maximum mean: 4.02 cm H2O/L/s) and duration of the response. Mouth leak with nasal CPAP leads to high unidirectional nasal airflow, which causes a large increase in nasal resistance. This response can be largely prevented by fully humidifying the inspired air.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Resistance*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Male
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Nose / physiology*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Respiration*
  • Temperature