Purpose: We attempted to determine the usefulness of high-speed MR imaging for evaluating the severity of sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) by comparing findings of pharyngeal obstruction obtained with high-speed MR with those of all-night polysomnography (PSG).
Subjects and methods: A total of 33 patients with SAS underwent turbo-FLASH MR examination, while awake and after i.v. injection of hydroxyzine hydrochloride. Serial images were examined by cinemode. Pharyngeal findings on MR were divided into single-site obstruction (SO) at the velopharynx, multiple-site obstruction (MO), and no obstruction (NO). PSG findings were analyzed to determine the predominant type of apnea, severity as evaluated by an apnea index (AI), and the lowest SaO2 value during sleep.
Results: Seventy-five percent of the central apnea group had SO, and 70% of the mixed apneas had MO, while only 15% of the obstructed apneas had MO. The percentage of patients with severe SAS (AI of 20% or higher) was 48% for the SO, and 70% for the MO. The lowest SaO2 value tended to be low in the mixed apnea in the case of PSG, and tended to be low in the MO at MR examination.
Conclusion: Analysis of pharyngeal dynamics using high-speed MR may provide some useful information for evaluating the severity of SAS.