Sleep apnea is caused by the soft parts of the upper airways collapsing and preventing the air from flowing freely during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), affects up to 20 percent of the population. The disease is recognized by heavy snoring, frequent breathing stops, gasping for breath, and repeated awakenings. OSA is the cause for low quality sleep and reduced oxygen uptake and is considered a major cause for reduced life quality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and increased mortality in the modern society.
There is a variety of available treatment options for OSA, but today there are no available methods for predicting the outcome of the treatment.
Medical imaging can be used to produce pictures of the patients' airways. These lay a good foundation for studying and describing the shape and size of the airways, but they tell little about the way the airflow will distribute in the airway or how the soft tissue in e.g. the soft palate, tongue or pharynx will be affected by the airflow.
From patent specific images we produce computer models which can be used to compute how the airflow and soft tissue behave. By virtual surgery, we modify the patient-specific computer model accordingly followed by computations to find out how treatment may affect the patient in real life. Selection of treatment options will still be subject to the physician's experience and interpretation of available information about the patient.
This project is conducted through the collaboration between medical experts from St. Olavs hospital, the university hospital of Trondheim, and the Faculty of medicine at NTNU and experts in computational biomechanics at the Faculty of engineering at NTNU and SINTEF.
The vision of the project team is to develop a commercial "design tool" that can be used in treatment planning. Such a tool has the potential to help reduce the waiting lists and costs in the health sector as well as reducing risk and inconvenience for patients.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep related breathing disorder caused by repetitive collapses of the upper airways during sleep, resulting in reduced breathing, oxygen desaturation and sleep disturbances. It is well documented that OSA has a massive impact on global health [1-4], with approximately 20% of the adult population affected. OSA endpoints are cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, stroke and ischemic heart disease. OSA is also linked to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Surgical treatment is frequently been performed, but long-term outcomes are still uncertain.
The current project will combine research from engineering science and medicine for patient-specific diagnostics and treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). When evaluating treatment options, clinicians are currently relying on general guidelines and personal experience, but they are lacking objective and predictive decision support tools. This project will provide required insight and software tools for computer-aided diagnostics and treatment of OSA through the promotion of virtual surgery. Thereby, OSA patients can be treated more targeted, with reduced risk for the patient and reduced cost for society.