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Evaluation of airway obstruction at soft palate level in male patients with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome: dynamic 3-dimensional CT imaging of upper airway

Ying Xiao, Xiong Chen, Heshui Shi, Yang Yang, Liechun He, Jiaqi Dong, Weijia Kong
Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Medical Sciences 2011, 31 (3): 413
21671189
This study examined the dynamic characteristics of upper airway collapse at soft palate level in patients with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS) by using dynamic 3-Dimensional (3-D) CT imaging. A total of 41 male patients who presented with 2 of the following symptoms, i.e., daytime sleepiness and fatigue, frequent snoring, and apnea with witness, were diagnosed as having OSAHS. They underwent full-night polysomnography and then dynamic 3-D CT imaging of the upper airway during quiet breathing and in Muller's maneuver. The soft palate length (SPL), the minimal cross-sectional area of the retropalatal region (mXSA-RP), and the vertical distance from the hard palate to the upper posterior part of the hyoid (hhL) were compared between the two breathing states. These parameters, together with hard palate length (HPL), were also compared between mild/moderate and severe OSAHS groups. Association of these parameters with the severity of OSAHS [as reflected by apnea hypopnea index (AHI) and the lowest saturation of blood oxygen (LSaO(2))] was examined. The results showed that 31 patients had severe OSAHS, and 10 mild/moderate OSAHS. All the patients had airway obstruction at soft palate level. mXSA-RP was significantly decreased and SPL remarkably increased during Muller's maneuver as compared with the quiet breathing state. There were no significant differences in these airway parameters (except the position of the hyoid bone) between severe and mild/moderate OSAHS groups. And no significant correlation between these airway parameters and the severity of OSAHS was found. The position of hyoid was lower in the severe OSAHS group than in the mild/moderate OSAHS group. The patients in group with body mass index (BMI)≥26 had higher collapse ratio of mXSA-RP, greater neck circumference and smaller mXSA-RP in the Muller's maneuver than those in group with BMI<26 (P<0.05 for all). It was concluded that dynamic 3-D CT imaging could dynamically show the upper airway changes at soft palate level in OSAHS patients. All the OSAHS patients had airway obstruction of various degrees at soft palate level. But no correlation was observed between the airway change at soft palate level and the severity of OSAHS. The patients in group with BMI≥26 were more likely to develop airway obstruction at soft palate level than those with BMI<26.

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