The technology, which could come into clinical use as research continues and fleshes out the way that abnormal airflow has real effects on the tissues of the upper airway, might be able to help direct treatment. Using colors and numerical values within a real-time and real-life image of the airway, the technology allows users to see the speed of the air, the pressure on the airway wall and the shear, as well as the amount of shear stress on the wall. “We’re able to really look at what the airflow is doing to the airway, from the nose all the way to the epiglottis,” Dr. Powell said.
Explore this issue:October 2012
The project has joined doctors and aerospace engineers at Stanford, the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, the University of Washington and the University of Cincinnati. More work needs to be done to test the technology’s ability to predict success with surgery, CPAP and other treatments of sleep-disordered breathing, Dr. Powell said.
The studies so far haven’t been designed to determine whether the flow through the airway results in tissue damage, but that is a suspicion, he said. “Inferentially,” he said, “this work suggests a possible relationship.”