Pharyngeal critical pressure in children with mild sleep-disordered breathing

R. F. Fregosi, S. F. Quan, W. L. Morgan, J. L. Goodwin, R. Cabrera, I. Shareif, K. W. Fridel, R. R. Bootzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There is evidence that narrowing or collapse of the pharynx can contribute to obstructive sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in adults and children. However, studies in children have focused on those with relatively severe SDB who generally were recruited from sleep clinics. It is unclear whether children with mild SDB who primarily have hypopneas, and not frank apnea, also have more collapsible airways. We estimated airway collapsibility in 10 control subjects (9.4 ± 0.5 yr old; 1.9 ± 0.2 hypopneas/h) and 7 children with mild SDB (10.6 ± 0.5 yr old; 11.5 ± 0.1 hypopneas/h) during stable, non-rapid eye movement sleep. None of the subjects had clinically significant enlargement of the tonsils or adenoids, nor had any undergone previous tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. Airway collapsibility was measured by brief (2-breath duration) and sudden reductions in pharyngeal pressure by connecting the breathing mask to a negative pressure source. Negative pressure applications ranging from -1 to -20 cmH2O were randomly applied in each subject while respiratory airflow and mask pressure were measured. Flow-pressure curves were constructed for each subject, and the x-intercept gave the pressure at zero flow, the so-called critical pressure of the upper airway (Pcrit). Pcrit was significantly higher in children with SDB than in controls (-10.8 ± 2.8 vs. -15.7 ± 1.2 cmH2O; P < 0.05). There were no significant differences in the slopes of the pressure-flow relations or in baseline airflow resistance. These data support the concept that intrinsic pharyngeal collapsibility contributes to mild SDB in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-739
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006


  • Apnea
  • Hypopnea
  • Upper airway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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