• Vol. 37 No. 8, 677–682
  • 15 August 2008

Effect of Orthognathic Surgery on the Posterior Airway Space (PAS)



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Orthognathic surgery has been used regularly to treat dentofacial deformities. The surgical procedures affect both the facial appearance as well as the posterior airway space (PAS). Our current literature indicates that setback procedures produce an inferior repositioning of the hyoid bone and posterior displacement of the tongue and the soft palate. These movements cause anteroposterior and lateral narrowing of the PAS. Most authors agree that these effects are permanent. The PAS changes in turn produce an adaptive posturing, with an increased craniocervical angle to open up the PAS. Even though most patients do not display snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) post-surgery, there is certainly an increased possibility in patients with already compromised airways. Therefore, patients who are undergoing orthognathic surgery should be screened for excessive daytime somnolence, snoring, increased body mass index (BMI) and medical conditions related to OSA and sent for an overnight polysomnography (PSG) if OSA is suspected. Then the proposed treatment plan may be modified according to the risk of potential airway compromise or even to improve it. Conversely, advancement of the maxilla and mandible causes widening of the airway in both the anteroposterior and lateral dimensions. This effect would translate to better airflow and decreased airway resistance. This is supported by the evidence showing high success rates when orthognathic surgery, especially maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), is utilised to treat OSA.

During the growth and development of a person, the facial structures are primarily dependent on the genetic makeup and secondarily on the environmental factors. If the facial structures grow abnormally or disproportionately, a dentofacial deformity occurs.

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