Imaging of the human upper airway is widely used in medicine, in both clinical practice and research. Common imaging modalities include video endoscopy, X-ray CT, and MRI. However, no current modality is both quantitative and safe to use for extended periods of time. Such a capability would be particularly valuable for sleep research, which is inherently reliant on long observation sessions. We have developed an instrument capable of quantitative imaging of the human upper airway, based on endoscopic optical coherence tomography. There are no dose limits for optical techniques, and the minimally invasive imaging probe is safe for use in overnight studies.
We report on the design of the instrument and its use in preliminary clinical studies, and we present results from a range of initial experiments. The experiments show that the instrument is capable of imaging during sleep, and that it can record dynamic changes in airway size and shape. This information is useful for research into sleep disorders, and potentially for clinical diagnosis and therapies.