Sleep apnea is a major cause of daytime hypersomnolence. Among the proposed etiologies, focal obstruction of the airways at the level of the pharynx has been suggested but not proven. Using computed tomography, the cross-sectional area of the airway can be readily assessed. Thirty-three adults with clinically proven sleep apnea and 12 normal adults underwent systematic computed tomography of the neck. Significant airway narrowing was demonstrated in all the patients with obstructive sleep apnea, whereas no such narrowing was seen in the controls. In 11, the narrowing was at a single level, whereas in 22 patients two or more levels were affected. This study has shown that a structurally abnormal airway may serve as an anatomic substrate for the development of sleep apnea. On the basis of this evidence, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty has been performed in two patients with relief of symptoms in one.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging