Upper airway assessment: radiographic and other imaging techniques

Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 1998 Dec;31(6):931-68. doi: 10.1016/s0030-6665(05)70100-6.


Upper airway imaging is a powerful technique to study the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and biomechanics of sleep apnea and the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of therapeutic interventions in patients with sleep disordered breathing. The primary upper airway imaging modalities include nasopharyngoscopy, cephalometrics, CT scanning, and MR imaging. Imaging studies using these modalities have provided important insights into the static and dynamic structure and function of the upper airway and surrounding soft-tissue structures during wakefulness and sleep. Such imaging studies have highlighted the importance of the lateral pharyngeal walls in mediating upper airway caliber. These imaging modalities have also been used to study the effect of respiration, weight loss, mandibular repositioning devices, and upper airway surgery on the upper airway. Three-dimensional reconstruction of the airway and surrounding soft-tissue structures can be performed with MR imaging and CT scanning. Clinical indications for upper airway imaging are evolving such that imaging studies should be considered in patients with sleep apnea who are being treated with dental appliances or upper airway surgery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cephalometry
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Endoscopy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology
  • Pharynx / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pharynx / pathology
  • Respiration
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / surgery
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wakefulness / physiology
  • Weight Loss