Airway Analysis in 3D with i-CAT

Serving for seven years in the United States Navy changed my perspective on dentistry. My general practice residency program at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, gave me a glimpse into treating the body as a whole and not just focusing on the teeth. As a result, I was thrilled when i-CAT 3D imaging became an option for my practice. It has allowed me to raise my diagnostic capabilities to a new level, expanding into the area of airway analysis.

With my i-CAT system, I treatment plan with precise data about the dentition, as well as the anatomy of the nose, all the way down through the throat. I can use my clinical skills to help improve patient health.

Using i-CAT scans and Tx STUDIO™ treatment planning software, I can check the adequacy of restricted airways and nasal passages and obtain precise anatomical information in axial, sagittal, and coronal views. In my opinion, a stuffed or blocked nasal passage can lead to narrow maxilla because the patient has difficulty or cannot exchange air through the nose. I use the coronal view to measure the diameter of the airway in two planes and to check the posterior nasal pharynx and see its width.

Tx STUDIO’s airway tool allows me to perform calculations that measure and color-code constriction values of the complete airway so that I can evaluate treatment options. This software also allows me the flexibility to calculate these measurements myself.

Achieving the lowest radiation dose is one of the reasons I chose the i-CAT brand. I can use the low-dose option, depending on the resolution needed. With low-radiation dose 3D imaging available, I see no reason to use 2D imaging.

Airway analysis

Color-coded airway lends information in 3D

When working with a sleep medicine physician or ENT regarding sleep disorders, I can share 3D scan data on disk or secure electronic communications. With the sleep study and 3D imaging, the ENT and I can determine a proper protocol. For those who cannot tolerate a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, I can fabricate a certain type of intraoral appliance to properly reposition the lower jaw forward and open increasing airway volume.

Onscreen images from i-CAT scans help patients make informed consent decisions. Seeing their own airway anatomy in 3D helps me to communicate with patients so they understand what, if anything, is wrong with their airway, and how treatment may benefit them. Patients are often amazed that what they see on their scan is reflected in their health, such as difficulty in breathing through the nose, constant nasal infections, or an “adenoid” facial appearance.

I have raised my diagnostic capabilities to a new level of accuracy since implementing i-CAT cone beam 3D imaging in 2007. For airway analysis, viewing anatomy in real time and in three dimensions, and for effective patient education, i-CAT makes a difference.

Originally published in Sidekick Magazine.

About the Author: Dr. Thomas F. Tilson graduated from Marquette University’s School of Dentistry in Milwaukee, WI., with a DDS. In the United States Navy, he completed a general practice residency program at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, CA., and then entered graduate school at Ohio State University, earning his Certificate in Orthodontics and Master of Science degree. He is currently in private practice in Olympia, WA.