A role of pharyngeal length in obstructive sleep apnea patients

Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1997 Jan;111(1):12-7. doi: 10.1016/s0889-5406(97)70296-8.


A narrow pharyngeal pathway may be one of the most significant predisposing factors for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Accordingly, the objectives of many treatment modalities are focused on widening the constricted part of the pharynx. Despite the obvious limitations as a two-dimensional imaging technique, cephalometrics has been used more recently as a clinical screening tool for OSA. This study was designed to investigate whether pharyngeal variables more reliable than a single measurement of the most constricted area exist in cephalograms. A total of 80 pairs of upright and supine cephalograms were obtained and subclassified into four groups, in accordance with OSA severity. A medial axis program conveniently provided the variables for the study by transforming digitized outlines of the pharyngeal structure. The results indicate that the pharyngeal length and the pharyngeal width below the most constricted area may be the most important variables. We observed that the pharynx becomes considerably longer in the apneic group after a body position change from upright to supine. Pharyngeal length in the supine position may be more important than a one-dimensional measurement of the most constricted area in the diagnosis and treatment of OSA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cephalometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pharynx / pathology*
  • Posture
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / pathology*
  • Supine Position