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Orthod Craniofac Res. 2010 May;13(2):96-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-6343.2010.01482.x.

An analysis of different approaches to the assessment of upper airway morphology: a CBCT study.

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  • 1Instituto Lenza, GoiĆ¢nia, Brazil.



Upper airway morphology and respiration have been assigned an important role in the development of the craniofacial complex. Several studies advocate lateral cephalograms to evaluate the upper airway. Although this method has been widely used, a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional anatomical structure is questionable.


To correlate linear measurements (sagittal and transversal), cross-sectional areas, and volumes of the upper airway determined on Cone Beam CT (CBCT) data sets.


CBCT-scans of 34 patients were used to perform a 3D evaluation of the upper airway. Linear sagittal measurements reproducing those usually performed on lateral cephalograms, linear transversal measurements, cross-sectional areas, partial and total volumes (TV) were computed.


The analysis showed a weak correlation (r < 0.8) between most of the linear measurements. The correlations between sagittal, transversal, and cross-sectional area with partial volumes were weak, except for the lower part of the nasopharynx which was highly correlated (r > 0.9) with sagittal measurement and with area. The upper part of the velopharynx presented a good correlation (0.8 < r < 0.9) between area and volume. Good correlation between most transversal measurements and the corresponding areas was found. Minimal sagittal, minimal transversal, and minimal area were weakly correlated with TV.


Upper airway cannot be accurately expressed by single linear measurements as performed on cephalograms. The TV alone does not depict the morphology of the airway. A CBCT-based 3D analysis gives a better picture of the anatomical characteristics of the upper airways and therefore can lead to an improvement of the diagnosis.

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