Purpose: To develop a novel non-invasive technique to quantify upper airway inflammation using positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI) in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Methods: Patients with treatment naïve moderate-to-severe OSA underwent [18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose (FDG) PET/MRI. Three readers independently performed tracings of the pharyngeal soft tissue on MRI. Standardized uptake values (SUV) were generated from region of interest (ROI) tracings on corresponding PET images. Background SUV was measured from the sternocleidomastoid muscle. SUV and target-to-background (TBR) were compared across readers using intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) analyses. SUV from individual image slices were compared between each reader using Bland–Altman plots and Pearson correlation coefficients. All tracings were repeated by one reader for assessment of intra-reader reliability. Results: Five participants completed our imaging protocol and analysis. Median age, body mass index, and apnea–hypopnea index were 41 years (IQR 40.5–68.5), 32.7 kg/m2 (IQR 28.1–38.1), and 30.7 event per hour (IQR 19.5–48.1), respectively. The highest metabolic activity regions were consistently localized to palatine or lingual tonsil adjacent mucosa. Twenty-five ICC met criteria for excellent agreement. The remaining three were TBR measurements which met criteria for good agreement. Head-to-head comparisons revealed strong correlation between each reader. Conclusions: Our novel imaging technique demonstrated reliable quantification of upper airway FDG avidity. This technology has implications for future work exploring local airway inflammation in individuals with OSA and exposure to pollutants. It may also serve as an assessment tool for response to OSA therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1096
Number of pages10
JournalSleep and Breathing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Pharynx
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Upper airway inflammation


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