Altered swallowing biomechanics in people with moderate-severe obstructive sleep apnea

Mistyka S. Schar, Taher I. Omari, Charmaine M. Woods, Lara F. Ferris, Sebastian H. Doeltgen, Kurt Lushington, Anna Kontos, Theodore Athanasiadis, Charles Cock, Ching-Li Chai Coetzer, Danny J. Eckert, Eng H. Ooi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: Dysphagia is a common but under-recognized complication of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, the mechanisms remain poorly described. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to assess swallowing symptoms and use high-resolution pharyngeal manometry to quantify swallowing biomechanics in patients with moderate-severe OSA. Methods: Nineteen adults (4 female; mean (range) age, 46 ± 26-68 years) with moderate-severe OSA underwent high-resolution pharyngeal manometry testing with 5-, 10-, and 20-mL volumes of thin and extremely thick liquids. Data were compared with 19 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (mean (range) age, 46 ± 27-68 years). Symptomatic dysphagia was assessed using the Sydney Swallow Questionnaire. Swallow metrics were analyzed using the online application General linear mixed model analysis was performed to investigate potential differences between people with moderate-severe OSA and controls. Data presented are means [95% confidence intervals]. Results: Twenty-six percent (5 of 19) of the OSA group but none of the controls reported symptomatic dysphagia (Sydney Swallow Questionnaire > 234). Compared with healthy controls, the OSA group had increased upper esophageal sphincter relaxation pressure (22 [21] vs 2 [1] mm Hg, F = 32.1, P <.0001), reduced upper esophageal sphincter opening (6 vs 5 mS, F = 23.6, P <.0001), and increased hypopharyngeal intrabolus pressure (2 [1] vs 7 [1] mm Hg, F = 19.0, P <.05). Additionally, upper pharyngeal pressures were higher, particularly at the velopharynx (88 [12] vs 144 [12] mm Hg_cm_s, F = 69.6, P <.0001). Conclusions: High-resolution pharyngeal manometry identified altered swallowing biomechanics in people with moderate-severe OSA, which is consistent with a subclinical presentation. Potential contributing mechanisms include upper esophageal sphincter dysfunction with associated upstream changes of increased hypopharyngeal distension pressure and velopharyngeal contractility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1793-1803
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date27 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Manometry
  • Patient-reported outcome measures
  • Sleep apnea obstructive
  • Sleep apnea syndromes


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