Study Objectives: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is common in individuals with tetraplegia and associated with adverse health outcomes. The causes of the high prevalence of OSA in this population are unknown, but it is important to understand as standard treatments are poorly tolerated in tetraplegia. Nasal congestion is common in tetraplegia, possibly because of unopposed parasympathetic activity. Further, nasal obstruction can induce OSA in healthy individuals. We therefore aimed to compare nasal resistance before and after topical administration of a sympathomimetic between 10 individuals with tetraplegia (T) and 9 able-bodied (AB) controls matched for OSA severity, gender, and age. Methods: Nasal, pharyngeal, and total upper airway resistance were calculated before and every 2 minutes following delivery of ≈0.05 mL of 0.5% atomized phenylephrine to the nostrils and pharyngeal airway. The surface tension of the upper airway lining liquid was also assessed. Results: At baseline, individuals with tetraplegia had elevated nasal resistance (T = 7.0 ± 1.9, AB = 3.0 ± 0.6 cm H2O/L/s), that rapidly fell after phenylephrine (T = 2.3 ± 0.4, p = 0.03 at 2 min) whereas the able-bodied did not change (AB = 2.5 ± 0.5 cm H2O/L/s, p = 0.06 at 2 min). Pharyngeal resistance was non-significantly higher in individuals with tetraplegia than controls at baseline (T = 2.6 ± 0.9, AB = 1.2 ± 0.4 cm H2O/L/s) and was not altered by phenylephrine in either group. The surface tension of the upper airway lining liquid did not differ between groups (T = 64.3 ± 1.0, AB = 62.7 ± 0.6 mN/m). Conclusions: These data suggest that the unopposed parasympathetic activity in tetraplegia increases nasal resistance, potentially contributing to the high occurrence of OSA in this population.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © 2016 American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Full text available on PMC.
- nasal congestion
- Upper airway physiology
- Sleep apnea