What is the role of anatomy in the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020
  • Author: Himanshu Wickramasinghe, MD, MBBS; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Anatomic factors (eg, enlarged tonsils; volume of the tongue, soft tissue, or lateral pharyngeal walls); length of the soft palate; abnormal positioning of the maxilla and mandible) may each contribute to a decrease in the cross-sectional area of the upper airway and/or increase the pressure surrounding the airway, both of which predispose the airway to collapse. [10, 11] Note that in adults, it is very rare for enlarged tonsils and adenoids to be a cause of OSA. Removing the enlarged adenoids and tonsils alone rarely is an effective surgical remedy; in children, about 80% who have have OSA are cured with the removal of enlarged adenoids and tonsils. There is often a misconception that enlarged adenoids and tonsils may be a singular cause of OSA in both children and adults, but this is not true.

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