Hypopharyngeal lipoma causing obstructive sleep apnea: Discovery on dental cone-beam CT

March 24, 2013
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Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is primarily used for a variety of dental purposes, but it may also yield nondental findings that can have significant implications for patient health. For example, physicians should be aware that CBCT can identify some of the etiopathogenic causes of obstructive sleep apnea, as occurred in the case described in this report. The patient was a 76-year-old man who presented to a dentist for implant therapy. A CBCT that had been performed in preparation for dental implant placement revealed the presence of a large hypopharyngeal lesion that was obstructing the airway. An otolaryngologist excised the lesion, which on biopsy proved to be a lipoma. Following removal of the lesion, the patient's episodic sleep apnea and snoring resolved. Medical physicians should be aware of maxillofacial CBCT technology and its ability to identify lesions that could cause potential life-threatening situations.


Lipomas are benign tumors of fat-cell origin. They are the most common of all the soft-tissue masses.1 Most occur in the upper half of the body; 13% involve the head and neck region.2 They can occur almost anywhere in the head and neck, including intraoral sites such as the palate, tongue, and tonsil. Pharyngeal involvement is uncommon.

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