Pharyngeal Inflammation on Positron Emission Tomography/Magnetic Resonance Imaging Before and After Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

Audrey E. Kaufman, Hyewon Choi, Samira Khan, Philip M. Robson, Mayte Suárez-Fariñas, Venkatesh Mani, Neomi A. Shah, Oren Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Rationale: There is upper airway inflammation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which reduces with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Objectives: Validate the use of positron emission tomography (PET)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to quantify metabolic activity within the pharyngeal mucosa of patients with OSA against nasal lavage proteomics and assess the impact of CPAP therapy. Methods: Adults with OSA underwent [18F]-Fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose PET/MRI of the neck before and 3 months after initiating CPAP. Nasal lavage samples were collected. Inflammatory protein expression from samples was analyzed using the Olink platform. Upper airway imaging segmentation was performed. Target-to-background ratio (TBRmax) was calculated from target pharyngeal maximum standard uptake values (SUV) and personalized background mean SUV. Most-diseased segment TBRmax was identified per participant at locations with the highest PET avidity. Correlation analysis was performed between baseline TBRmax and nasal lavage proteomics. TBRmax was compared before and after CPAP using linear mixed-effect models. Results: Among 38 participants, the baseline mean age was 46.3 years (standard deviation [SD], 12.5), 21% were female, the mean body mass index was 30.9 kg/m2 (SD, 4.6), and the mean respiratory disturbance index measured by peripheral arterial tonometry was 31 events/h (SD, 16.4). There was a significant positive correlation between pharyngeal mucosa most-diseased segment TBRmax and nasal lavage proteomic inflammation (r = 0.41 [P < 0.001, false discovery rate = 0.002]). Primary analysis revealed a reduction in the most-diseased segment TBRmax after a median of 2.91 months of CPAP therapy (-0.86 [standard error (SE) ± 0.30; P = 0.007]). Stratified analysis by smoking status revealed a significantly decreased most-diseased segment TBRmax after CPAP therapy among never-smokers but not among ever-smokers (-1.01 [SE ± 0.39; P = 0.015] vs. -0.64 [SE ± 0.49; P = 0.201]). Conclusions: CPAP therapy reduces metabolic activity measured by PET/MRI within the upper airway of adults with OSA. Furthermore, PET/MRI measures of upper airway metabolic activity correlate with a noninvasive marker of inflammation (i.e., nasal lavage inflammatory protein expression).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-583
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • OSA
  • continuous positive airway pressure
  • upper airway inflammation


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