Effect of tracheal and tongue displacement on upper airway airflow dynamics

James A. Rowley, Solbert Permutt, Shannon Willey, Philip L. Smith, Alan R. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that caudal tracheal displacement alters the airflow dynamics of the upper airway. In the present study, we specifically examined the effects of tongue and tracheal displacement on upper airway airflow dynamics. To determine how tongue and tracheal displacement modulate maximal inspiratory airflow (V̇I(max)), we analyzed the pressure-flow relationships obtained in the isolated upper airway of paralyzed cats. V̇I(max) and its determinants, the pharyngeal critical pressure (P(crit)) and the nasal resistance (Rn) upstream to the flow-limiting site, were measured as tongue displacement and tracheal displacement were systematically varied. Four results were obtained: 1) there was no independent effect of tongue displacement on V̇I(max), P(crit), or Rn; 2) there was an increase in V̇I(max) with 2 cm of tracheal displacement, which was associated with a decrease in P(crit) and an increase in Rn; 3) there was an interactive effect of tongue and tracheal displacement on V̇I(max) and P(crit) but not on Rn; and 4) there was a large increase in V̇I(max) with tongue displacement >2.5 cm with the trachea nondisplaced, which was associated with a large decrease in P(crit) and a large increase in Rn. We conclude that tongue and tracheal displacement exert differing influences on airflow dynamics and present a mechanical model of the upper airway that explains these results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2171-2178
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • collapsibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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