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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1993 Apr;74(4):1504-14.

Dynamic imaging of the upper airway during respiration in normal subjects.

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Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-4283.


The present study was conducted to determine the effects of quiet respiration on upper airway caliber in 15 normal subjects by using cine computed tomography. The cine computed tomography (Imatron) scanner was programmed to obtain 8-mm-thick axial slices every 0.4 s during inspiration and expiration at four anatomic levels, from the nasopharynx to the retroglossal region. Airflow (pneumotachograph) was measured, and tidal volume was obtained by integration. Upper airway area, determined by an objective edge detection algorithm, was plotted as a function of tidal volume to generate a loop describing upper airway area changes at each level during a respiratory cycle. The results demonstrate a 17% change in airway size across all anatomic levels during respiration. The maximum upper airway cross-sectional area at all four anatomic levels was significantly greater during expiration than during inspiration. Other major findings include 1) upper airway cross-sectional area decreases slightly during early inspiration, enlarges toward end inspiration, and is larger at end inspiration than at the beginning of inspiration; 2) upper airway cross-sectional area enlarges from end inspiration to the first point in expiration; the airway enlarges further, reaching its maximum early in expiration, and then narrows toward end expiration; and 3) the changes in upper airway dimensions during resting tidal breathing are greater in the lateral than in the anteroposterior direction. The data suggest that during inspiration, the action of negative intraluminal pressure may be largely balanced by the action of the upper airway dilator muscles, whereas during expiration, positive intraluminal pressure produces expansion of the upper airway.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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