A significantly narrower upper airway, specifically of the retropalatal region, has been associated with sleep apnea in obese patients, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study included 157 obese patients with OSA and 46 obese controls. Of the study participants, 97% had a body mass index ?30 kg/m2. Dynamic magnetic resonance imaging was performed during wakefulness to measure the dimensions of the upper airway, obtaining 1 set of sagittal and 3 sets of axial slices from the midsagittal, retropalatal, retroglossal, and epiglottal regions.

Midsagittal measurements were significantly larger in patients with OSA, specifically for airway length in both maximum (P =.0066) and minimum (P =.0088) areas. However, measurements of the retropalatal airway area overall were significantly smaller in the OSA group compared with the control group.

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