Assessment of upper airway patency in spontaneously breathing non-intubated neonates and infants undergoing conventional MRI of head and neck

Thangamadhan Bosemani, Malvi Hemani, Angelo Cruz, Meehir Shah, Barbara Kim, Brian Gu, Soumyadipta Acharya, Robert Allen, Thierry A G M Huisman, Utpal Bhalala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Neonates and infants frequently undergo MRI examinations of the brain or head and neck in spontaneous respiration. This study aims to evaluate the patency of the upper airway and associated risk factors in spontaneously breathing neonates and infants undergoing MRI of head and neck. Methods: Airway patency was assessed on sagittal and axial MRI images of the head and neck region for neonates and infants retrospectively. Anteroposterior diameters were measured at the soft palate and tongue levels as well as a lateral diameter at the tongue level for the patent airway. Chart review for risk factors was carried out. Results: A total of 831 children between 0 and 12 months of age had an MRI. Eighty-two children with spontaneous ventilation were included. The airway was occluded in 29/82 (35 %) of children. Twenty-four out of 29 (83 %) children with airway occlusion had a depressed level of consciousness, 7/24 (29 %) of whom were sedated with a single dose of benzodiazepine and 17/24 (71 %) were on anti-epileptic therapy for an underlying seizure disorder and/or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Forty-three out of 82 (65 %) of children had an open airway. The airway diameters (mean ± SD) were 5.9 ± 2 mm (anteroposterior (AP) at soft palate), 7.4 ± 2.9 mm (lateral at soft palate), and 6.3 mm ± 1.6 (AP at dorsum of tongue). Conclusion: A significant proportion of spontaneously breathing neonates and infants with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy or sedation show evidence of airway obstruction during MRI. Careful pre-MRI screening for decision of spontaneous breathing versus artificial airway support during MRI and robust airway monitoring during MRI are required for these vulnerable children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1521-1525
Number of pages5
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 10 2015



  • Airway
  • Children
  • MRI
  • Neonates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology

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