Increased phosphatidylcholine concentration in saliva reduces surface tension and improves airway patency in obstructive sleep apnoea

M. Kawai, J. P. Kirkness, S. Yamamura, K. Imaizumi, H. Yoshimine, K. Oi, T. Ayuse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Surface tension may have important role for maintaining upper airway patency in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. It has been demonstrated that elevated surface tension increases the pharyngeal pressures required to reopen the upper airway following collapse. The aim of the study was to evaluate the associations between the concentrations of endogenous surfactants in saliva with indices of upper airway patency in obstructive sleep apnoea. We studied 20 male patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (age: 60·3 ± 10·3 years; BMI: 25·9 ± 4·6 kg m-2; AHI: 41·5 ± 18·6 events h-1). We obtained 100-μL samples of saliva prior to overnight polysomnographic sleep study. The surface tension was determined using the pull-off force technique. The concentration of phosphatidylcholine (PC) was evaluated by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Regression analysis between apnoea, hypopnoea and apnoea/hypopnoea indices and the ratio of hypopnoea time/total disordered breathing time (HT/DBT) with surface tension and PC were performed. P < 0·05 was considered significant. The mean saliva surface tension was 48·8 ± 8·0 mN m-1 and PC concentration was 15·7 ± 11·1 nM. The surface tension was negatively correlated with the PC concentration (r = -0·48, P = 0·03). There was a significant positive correlation between surface tension with hypopnoea index (r = 0·50, P = 0·03) and HT/DBT (r = 0·6, P = 0·006), but not apnoea or apnoea/hypopnoea index (P > 0·11). Similarly, PC concentration negatively correlated with hypopnoea index (r = -0·45, P = 0·04) and HT/DBT (r = -0·6, P = 0·004), but not with apnoea index or AHI (P > 0·08). An increase in salivary PC concentration may increase upper airway patency in obstructive sleep apnoea through a reduction in surface tension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-766
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Oral Rehabilitation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Phospholipids
  • Surface tension
  • Upper airway collapsibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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