Objectives: We used upper airway (UA) imaging in 20 patients to determine (1) whether an effective enlargement of the UA is obtained after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), and (2) whether UA modifications explain the results of such surgery.
Methods: Cephalometric measurements were made to assess the posterior airway space, the length and width of the soft palate, and the distance between the hyoid bone and the mandibular plane. Pharyngeal CT measured the airway cross-sectional area (CSA) at each 10-mm slice from 10 mm above (-10) to 40 mm below (+40) the hard palate. Polysomnography was performed before and after surgery (10+/-10 [SD] months). Good responders were defined by an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of <10 postsurgery or, in patients in whom AHI was initially <10, a reduction of AHI >50% of the initial AHI.
Results: Twenty patients (age=45+/-11 years) were studied. For the whole group, the mean body mass index (26+/-4 kg/m2) and AHI (14+/-13 vs 18+/-16/h) were unchanged after UPPP. The results of the surgery were mediocre with 7 good responders (35%) and 13 nonresponders (65%) defined by polysomnographic criteria. The only changes on UA imaging for the group as a whole after UPPP were decrease in length (40+/-6 vs 29+/-5 mm, p< or =0.0006) and increase in width of the soft palate (11.5+/-2.7 vs 13.6+/-3.5 mm, p< or =0.006). The increase or decrease in minimal CSA at the oropharyngeal (OP) level after UPPP was significantly correlated with the change in AHI (r=-0.54, p<0.02). Moreover, the changes in CSA obtained at the OP level were significant only in the patients who responded favorably to UPPP (7 vs 13 nonresponders).
Conclusions: Postoperative OP enlargement is associated with a good outcome of UPPP. Persistent narrowing in nonresponders could be due to the increase in soft palate width after surgery.