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Eur Respir J. 2006 Dec;28(6):1222-8. Epub 2006 Sep 27.

Obstructive sleep apnoea and oral breathing in patients free of nasal obstruction.

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Centre of Sleep Disorders, Medical School of Athens University, Dept of Critical Care and Pulmonary Services, Evangelismos Hospital, Athens, Greece.


Although there is an association between nasal obstruction, oral breathing and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), it remains unknown whether increased oral breathing occurs in patients with OSAS who are free of nasal obstruction. The present study evaluated the relationship between breathing route and OSAS in patients without nasal obstruction. The breathing route of 41 snorers (25 male; aged 26-77 yrs) with normal nasal resistance was examined during overnight polysomnography using a nasal cannula/pressure transducer and an oral thermistor. In total, 28 patients had OSAS (apnoeics) and 13 patients were simple snorers. Apnoeics had a higher percentage of oral and oro-nasal breathing epochs. Oral and oro-nasal breathing epochs were positively related with apnoea/hypopnoea index (AHI) and duration of apnoeas/hypopnoeas and inversely related to oxygen saturation. Additionally, oro-nasal breathing epochs correlated with body mass index (BMI). In multiple linear regression analysis, oral breathing epochs were independently related only to AHI (r2 = 0.443), and oro-nasal breathing epochs were independently related to AHI (r2 = 0.736) and BMI (r2 = 0.036). In conclusion, apnoeics spent more time breathing orally and oro-nasally than simple snorers, and the apnoea/hypopnoea index is a major determinant of the time spent breathing orally and oro-nasally.

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