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Tried Everything? Explore Your Sleep Apnea Surgery Options


If you've tried just about everything to treat your sleep apnea to no avail, all is not lost. When sleep apnea machines or oral devices don't work, obstructive sleep apnea surgery may be necessary. Sleep apnea surgery is used either to remove or reconstruct the soft tissues, such as the soft palate or uvula, or hard tissues in the jaw. This may include widening the breathing passages, reconstructing the jaw or removing excess tissue to unblock the airway.

Types of Sleep Apnea Surgery

Sleep Apnea Surgery – Find obstructive sleep apnea surgery options.

There are several types of surgery for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea surgery of the soft palate is used to remove, shrink or stiffen excess tissue in mouth or throat. For the hard tissues, sleep apnea surgery is used to reset the jawbone or change the facial structure to help open up the airway. Most of these surgeries are done in hospital setting under general anesthesia, but some can be performed as outpatient procedures.

The following are common types of obstructive sleep apnea surgery:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) -- UPPP is the most common sleep apnea surgery for adults. During UPPP, excess tissue is removed from the mouth and throat to expand the airway. Your surgeon may remove the uvula (the tissue that hangs from the back of the roof of your mouth) or part of the soft palate. UPPP surgery has been known to reduce snoring, but more research is needed to prove how well it works for treating sleep apnea.

Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) -- This sleep apnea surgery is similar to UPPP but instead of using a scalpel, a laser is used to remove soft tissues. LAUP is less invasive and can be performed right in your doctor's office. While it's known to remove less tissue than UPPP, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is increasingly being used to treat snoring.

Pillar® Procedure -- The Pillar Procedure is used to treat snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Surgery involves three polyester implants that are placed in the soft palate. Over time, the soft palate stiffens to help prevent it from collapsing. This obstructive sleep apnea surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in a doctor's office under local anesthesia.

Radio Frequency Tissue Ablation (RFTA) -- Known as Somnoplasty®, this sleep apnea surgery is used to shrink the size of tongue or palate. Low levels of radiofrequency produce heat to create lesions on the soft palate and uvula. Over time, these lesions are resorbed into the lining of the soft tissues, causing the palate to stiffen and reducing tissue. Somnoplasty is an out-patient procedure that takes about 30 minutes and often requires only local anesthesia, but several treatments may be needed in order to achieve desired results.

Tongue Suspension Procedure -- The ReposeTM System is designed to prevent the tongue from falling back over the airway by inserting a screw into the lower jaw and stitching it to the tongue. This obstructive sleep apnea surgery is reversible if need be.

Jaw Reconstruction -- There are several types of jaw reconstruction surgeries used to treat sleep apnea, including:

  • Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) resets the upper and/or lower jaw by moving it forward from the face bone.
  • Maxillofacial reconstruction increases the size of the bones around the tongue.
  • Genioplasty reconstructs the chin.
  • Hyoid advancement surgery involves the hyoid, a small bone at the top of your neck that's attached to the back of the tongue. The hyoid is moved forward, pulling the tongue along with it.
  • Genioglossus advancement (tongue advancement) pulls forward the muscle and bone that links the tongue to the jawbone.

Tracheostomy -- A tracheostomy (commonly known as a tracheotomy) is usually performed only if sleep apnea is severe or life-threatening. A metal or plastic tube is inserted through an opening in the neck below the area of blockage. During the day the hole is covered but is unplugged at night to allow air into the lungs. This is rarely used as a surgery for sleep apnea, as it can cause other health problems, including infection.

Nasal Surgeries -- Surgery may be used to remove polyps or correct a deviated septum.

Tonsillectomy or Adenoidectomy -- The removal of tonsils or adenoids is usually the first treatment option for children who have enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block their airway passages at night. This sleep apnea surgery is often combined with UPPP when treating adults.

Weight Loss Surgery -- Sleep apnea can result from obesity. When diet and exercise fails, gastric banding or gastric bypass surgery may be used to reduce stomach size, thereby reducing the amount of food the patient can consume. Resulting weight loss may cure sleep apnea symptoms.

Preparing for Sleep Apnea Surgery

Surgery for sleep apnea is often more invasive than other methods, such as sleep apnea machines and oral appliances. As with any surgery, there are risks involved, and the recovery period can be uncomfortable. Following a procedure like UPPP, you may experience a sore throat for one to two weeks, problems with swallowing, an impaired sense of smell or extra mucus in the throat. It is important to follow your doctor's post-operative instructions to prevent complications and infection.

Your doctor may ask you to do a sleep study first to determine whether obstructive sleep apnea surgery is necessary. It is often recommended that you try conventional methods first, like CPAP. You should also find out whether your health or dental insurance covers surgery for sleep apnea prior to having any procedures done.

One Final Note …

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, long-term success rates for a sleep apnea surgery like UPPP is roughly 50 percent or less. (In some cases, surgery for sleep apnea has been known to actually worsen the apnea.) While obstructive sleep apnea surgery may not always fully cure the apnea, it can reduce the severity of it. Sleep apnea surgery is often combined with other sleep apnea treatments, and you will likely continue to use your CPAP machine afterwards. You will need to be monitored by your doctor to make sure your condition does not return following your surgery.

Untreated sleep apnea can harm your health, so obstructive sleep apnea surgery may be your only option when other treatments fail.

Explore all of your sleep apnea surgery options -- call us at 1-866-970-0441 to find a dentist for sleep apnea treatment today.

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