Airway morphology and its influence on OSA severity and surgical intervention: a retrospective study

Fabiana Petrykowski, Raymond Lam, Richard Lewis, Syed Mohammed Shamsul Islam, Mithran Goonewardene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The aim was to assess the relationship between airway morphology and surgical intervention in a cohort of patients presenting with increased body mass index (BMI) and a confirmed diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). A secondary aim was to revisit the relationship between morphology and OSA severity. Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted of pre-operative maxillofacial 3D-CT scans of thirty-two patients with a confirmed diagnosis of OSA who received treatment from an ear nose and throat specialist (ENT). Lateral cephalograms were imported into Quick Ceph Studio (Quick Ceph Systems Inc, San Diego, CA, USA) after which linear and angular measurements of selected hard and soft tissues were obtained. 3D-CT images were loaded into the software program 3dMDVultus (3dMD) which permitted 3D visualisation of the airway. Measurements were repeated 3 times on the images of six patients after an interval of two weeks to establish the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for intra-examiner accuracy and reliability. Logistic regression was applied to determine the relationships between morphology, OSA and surgical treatments. Results: A positive correlation was found between age and the apnoea-hypopnea index (AHI). Morphological measurements of the airway did not exhibit a positive relationship with OSA severity. Posterior airway space at the level of the uvula and tongue, the length of the soft palate and position of the hyoid bone were significantly associated with BMI. No variables were found to be correlated with uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) surgery. Notwithstanding, airway length and posterior airway space at the level of the uvula tip were significantly associated with tongue channelling. Conclusions: Radiographic airway assessment is an invaluable and opportunistic tool for screening OSA but requires judicial use in its prescription and interpretation. There is little correlation between OSA severity and airway morphology and between surgical intervention and morphology. Additional factors need to be considered before a treatment modality is considered and is best managed in a multidisciplinary setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-318
Number of pages12
JournalAustralasian Orthodontic Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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