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Question 54 - How does the throat collapse during sleep apnea?

From: DWB


I've had sleep apnea for 15 years and a uppp 13 years ago that had no effect. I've had 4 sleep studies at different places and cpap(setting 16) just doesn't work(no central sleep apnea, they say) with any mask I can get my hands on. I'm trying to find out exactly how the throat collapses, what muscles and nerves are actually involved.

I've asked 2 physicians and the heads of 3 sleep clinics and others but no one has given me a real answer, let alone any answer. I've looked a lot through Netter's anatomy book and am beginning to get some idea of the throat structure but its complicated.

Can you help me understand exactly what happens in detail during a sleep apnea event from start to finish?

Thank you so much.

Response Provided by Dr. Kasey Li
Feb. 12, 2010

The typical airway collapse for sleep apneics involves the entire airway, from the soft palate/lateral wall region in the nasopharynx down the the base of tongue and lateral pharyngeal wall in the hypophyarynx. The tongue collapses backwards and the lateral collapse inwards. The degree of collapse may be different during different times but the entire airway is usually involved. That is why UPPP often does not work and why MMA works so well because it expands the entire airway.

Best of luck,


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