To evaluate the feasibility of using three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound to assess the anatomy of the airway.
11 young volunteers were recruited for 3D ultrasound and MRI of the airway. 3D ultrasound data were obtained from the level of the true vocal cords, cricoid cartilage and upper trachea. Multiplanar 3D ultrasound images were rendered and compared visually with corresponding MRI and cadaver anatomical sections. The anteroposterior (AP) and transverse diameter of the subglottic space and transverse diameter of the upper trachea were also measured in the 3D ultrasound and MR images and compared.
The airway anatomy was clearly delineated in the multiplanar 3D ultrasound images. It was also possible to identify the cricothyroid junction, and a simple method to measure the AP diameter of the subglottic space using this landmark is described. We were also able to accurately measure the transverse diameter of the upper trachea, but the transverse diameter of the subglottic space was overestimated using ultrasound. There was a strong correlation for the AP diameter measurement (r=0.94, p<0.05) and moderate correlation for the transverse diameter measurement (r=0.82, p=0.002) of the subglottic space, and a strong correlation for the transverse diameter measurement (r=0.91, p<0.05) of the upper trachea, in the ultrasound and MR images.
The anatomy of the adult airway can be assessed using 3D ultrasound. It can also be used to accurately measure the AP diameter of the subglottic space and the transverse diameter of the upper trachea.
Advances in knowledge:
This is the first report to describe the use of 3D ultrasound to evaluate the anatomy of the upper airway and accurately measure the AP diameter of the subglottic space and the transverse diameter of the upper trachea.