Effects of pentobarbital on upper airway patency during sleep

Matthias Eikermann, Danny J. Eckert, Nancy L. Chamberlin, Amy S. Jordan, Sebastian Zaremba, Scott A. Smith, Carl E. Rosow, Atul Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


We hypothesised that pentobarbital would improve upper airway mechanics based on an increase in latency to arousal and amplitude of the phasic genioglossus electromyogram (EMG), and a decrease in the active upper airway critical closing pressure (Pcrit). 12 healthy subjects received pentobarbital (100 mg) or placebo in a double-blind, crossover protocol. During wakefulness, we measured the genioglossus reflex response to negative pressure pulses. During sleep, carbon dioxide was insufflated into the inspired air. Airway pressure was then decreased in a stepwise fashion until arousal from sleep. With basal breathing during sleep: flow rate was lower in volunteers given pentobarbital; endtidal CO2 concentration and upper airway resistance were greater; and Pcrit was unaffected (pentobarbital mean±SD -11.7±4.5 versus placebo -10.25±3.6 cmH2O; p=0.11). Pentobarbital increased the time to arousal (297±63s versus 232±67 s; p<0.05), at which time phasic genioglossus EMG was higher (6.2±4.8% maximal versus 3.1±3%; p<0.05) as were CO2 levels. The increase in genioglossus EMG after CO2 administration was greater after pentobarbital versus placebo. Pentobarbital did not affect the genioglossus negative-pressure reflex. Pentobarbital increases the time to arousal and stimulates genioglossus muscle activity, but it also increases upper airway resistance during sleep. Copyright

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-576
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • Airway
  • Arousal threshold
  • Lung
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome
  • Sleep-disordered breathing


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of pentobarbital on upper airway patency during sleep'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this