The role of ultrasound in the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea

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OBJECTIVE. This study examines the association between the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and the pharyngeal parameters using the ultrasound of the submental region.

MATERIAL AND METHODS. For this study, data obtained from 40 patients, who had undergone investigations in the Galenus Medical Centre in order to diagnose sleep apnea, was analyzed. The following parameters were compared: the transverse diameter of the retrolingual region, the transverse diameter of the retropalatal region and the tongue base thickness. These regions were measured at different moments of respiration such as: during forced expiration, during forced inspiration and while the patients performed Müller’s Manoeuvre. The neck circumference, the body mass index of patients and the severity of sleep apnea obtained from polysomnography were analyzed.

RESULTS. The evaluation of the results revealed: severe obstructive sleep apnea in 16 patients, respectively moderate severity in 10 patients, mild apnea in 4 patients, and no obstructive sleep apnea in 10 patients. Statistically significant results (p<0.05) were found after comparing the parameters obtained in patients with severe apnea versus the parameters in patients without apnea, with mild or respectively moderate apnea.

CONCLUSION. Based on the results obtained, we consider that cervical ultrasound is useful in the diagnosis of severe obstructive apnea, identifying the pathological changes of the anatomical structures that basically cause this category of disease. Due to the fact that in our country ultrasound is a relatively inexpensive method, being also a non-irradiating, repeatable and accessible method, it should be more widely applied also in the field of otorhinolaryngology in order to view structures accessible to this type of imaging.

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