Respiratory stimulation (RS) during sleep often fails to discontinue flow limitation, whereas electrical stimulation (ES) of the hypoglossus (HG) nerve frequently prevents obstruction. The present work compares the effects of RS and HG-ES on pharyngeal mechanics and the relative contribution of tongue muscles and thoracic forces to pharyngeal patency. We determined the pressure-area relationship of the collapsible segment of the pharynx in anesthetized pigs under the following three conditions: baseline (BL), RS induced by partial obstruction of the tracheostomy tube, and HG-ES. Parameters were obtained also after transection of the neck muscles and the trachea (NMT) and after additional bilateral HG transection (HGT). In addition, we measured the force produced by in situ isolated geniohyoid (GH) during RS and HG-ES. Intense RS was recognized by large negative intrathoracic pressures and triggered high phasic genioglossus and GH EMG activity. GH contraction produced during maximal RS less than a quarter of the force obtained during HG-ES. The major finding of the study was that RS and ES differed in the mechanism by which they stabilized the pharynx: RS lowered the pressure-area slope, i.e., reduced pharyngeal compliance (14.1 ± 2.9 to 9.2 ± 1.9 mm2/cmH2O, P < 0.01). HG-ES shifted the slope toward lower pressures, i.e., lowered the calculated extraluminal pressure (17.4 ± 5.8 to 9.2 ± 7.4 cmH2O, P < 0.01). Changes during RS and HG-ES were not affected by NMT, but the effect of RS decreased significantly after HGT. In conclusion, HG-ES and RS affect the pharyngeal site of collapse differently. Tongue muscle contraction contributes to pharyngeal stiffening during RS.
- upper airway
- obstructive sleep apnea
- control of breathing
- respiratory stimulation
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