An Investigation Into the Development of a Realistic Upper Airway Visualisation System
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common example of a disease which affects the upper respiratory tract, and occurs when there is an anatomical obstruction or collapse in the upper airways of the respiratory system, leading to a cessation of breathing during sleep and thus resulting in a various number of side effects. Previous research has been undertaken to model the upper respiratory tract in order to entirely understand the factors behind OSA, and thus devise efficient methods and new technologies to treat and prevent it. However, physical visualisation can be one of the best methods of analysis, and no research has been found which enabled the physical visualisation of air flow within a complete and accurate model of the upper airway using a system which simulated realistic respiration. In order to address this issue, an anatomically accurate model was developed at the Institute of Biomedical Technologies with the three important properties relevant to its purpose: Accuracy, Transparency, and Flexibility. This model included the boundaries of the upper airway, as well as the two main associated organs relevant to OSA: the tongue and the uvula. Furthermore, this model was combined with an external system simulating realistic breathing, thus resulting in a realistic visualisation system of respiration within the upper airway. This system was then validated by running a series of experiments on the upper airway model and comparing the obtained response to that which was expected. The final system has potential to be used for future investigation in order to observe the reaction of the upper respiratory tract during respiration, and thus better understand and possibly treat diseases such as OSA.