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Title: Nasal resistance is elevated in people with tetraplegia and is reduced by topical sympathomimetic administration
Austin Authors: Gainche, Laura;Berlowitz, David J ;LeGuen, Mariannick;Ruehland, Warren R ;O'Donoghue, Fergal J ;Trinder, John;Graco, Marnie ;Schembri, Rachel;Eckert, Danny J;Rochford, Peter D ;Jordan, Amy S 
Affiliation: The Institute for Breathing and Sleep, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales, Randwick, NSW, Australia
Issue Date: 15-Nov-2016
Publication information: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 2016; 12(11): 1487-1492
Abstract: 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.
DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.6272
ORCID: 0000-0003-2543-8722
Journal: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
PubMed URL:
Type: Journal Article
Subjects: Nasal congestion
Sleep apnea
Upper airway physiology
Appears in Collections:Journal articles

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