Comparison of collapsibility of the human upper airway during anesthesia and during sleep

Kathleen J Maddison, Jennifer H Walsh, Kelly L Shepherd, Chrianna Bharat, Bradley K Lawther, Peter R Platt, Peter R Eastwood, David R Hillman

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The propensities for the upper airway to collapse during anesthesia and sleep are related, although much of our understanding of this relationship has been inferred from clinical observation and indirect measures such as the apnea-hypopnea index. The aim of this study was to use an identical, rigorous, direct measure of upper airway collapsibility (critical closing pressure of the upper airway) under both conditions to allow the magnitude of upper airway collapsibility in each state to be precisely compared.

METHODS: Ten subjects (8 men and 2 women; mean ± SD: age, 40.4 ± 12.1 years; body mass index, 28.5 ± 4.0 kg/m) were studied. Critical closing pressure of the upper airway was measured in each subject on separate days during (1) propofol anesthesia and (2) sleep.

RESULTS: Critical closing pressure of the upper airway measurements were obtained in all 10 subjects during nonrapid eye movement sleep and, in 4 of these 10 subjects, also during rapid eye movement sleep. Critical closing pressure of the upper airway during anesthesia was linearly related to critical closing pressure of the upper airway during nonrapid eye movement sleep (r = 0.64 [95% CI, 0.02-0.91]; n = 10; P = .046) with a similar tendency in rapid eye movement sleep (r = 0.80 [95% CI, -0.70 to 0.99]; n = 4; P = .200). However, critical closing pressure of the upper airway during anesthesia was systematically greater (indicating increased collapsibility) than during nonrapid eye movement sleep (2.1 ± 2.2 vs -2.0 ± 3.2 cm H2O, respectively, n = 10; within-subject mean difference, 4.1 cm H2O [95% CI, 2.32-5.87]; P < .001) with a similar tendency during rapid eye movement sleep (1.6 ± 2.4 vs -1.9 ± 4.3 cm H2O, respectively, n = 4; unadjusted difference, 3.5 cm H2O [95% CI, -0.95 to 7.96]; P = .087).

CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that the magnitude of upper airway collapsibility during anesthesia and sleep is directly related. However, the upper airway is systematically more collapsible during anesthesia than sleep, suggesting greater vulnerability to upper airway obstruction in the anesthetized state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1017
Number of pages9
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Early online date14 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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