/publications/issue/2005/2005-09/2005-09-9890

Facial Contours May Predict OSA

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An individual's looks may predict a sleep disorder. A recent study, the results of which were reported in Thorax, showed that individuals with a steep jaw line and a crowded or narrowed air passage at the back of the throat have greater odds of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). To determine whether facial profile influences OSA, the researchers examined 239 consecutive patients who were referred to sleep clinics in Hong Kong and Vancouver for suspicions of sleep-disordered breathing.

The researchers explained that key factors leading to narrowing of the airway include obesity, variations in facial bony structure, or a combination of both. They noted that craniofacial abnormalities may be a more significant factor in some ethnic groups.

"Our study showed that, in a mixed sample of patients of both sexes that included whites and Asians, a crowded or narrowed air passage at the back of the tongue and soft palate and a steep jaw line were the best predictors of OSA, regardless of the patients' ethnic group or their degree of obesity," said researcher Frank Ryan, MD.

Physicians can easily identify abnormalities of the craniofacial profile during routine clinical examinations. These abnormalities are a possible helpful tip-off to the possibility of OSA, he suggested.