Capturing the Shape Variation of the Human Upper Airway

Y.F. Lam, D.F. Gillies, P. Charters, and P. Groom (UK)


Human upper airway; Principal component analysis


This paper describes a novel way of visualising the natural variation and functional anatomy of the human upper airway. The airways of ten healthy volunteers were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging. The coordinates of 12 anatomical points, which outline the general shape of the upper airway, were extracted and principal component analysis was performed using a subset of their coordinates as variables. A graphical reconstruction of the statistical result was built to demonstrate the variation captured by each principal component. A simple graphical interface allows users to adjust the principle component magnitudes in the reconstruction. Instead of studying numeric data, such as the principal component loadings, medical practitioners are able to study the natural variation of the upper airway visually. The shape variation of the human upper airway can be captured by using only the first few principal components.

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