Are There Any Sleep Apnea Surgery Options?

Surgery is a last resort for sleep apnea when traditional therapies such as CPAP do not prove effective

Sleep apnea is one of those ailments that many times go undetected. By the time the sufferer is diagnosed with sleep apnea, symptoms may have escalated. Treatment needs to be given as soon as possible. In the majority of cases, CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a treatment administered for obstructive sleep apnea. In this method, a flow of air from an apparatus ensures that the airways are properly opened when sleeping so that breathing can occur easier.  Unfortunately, some people don’t react well to this method as it tends to be uncomfortable and can actually increase the lack of sleep. If this is the case or if the doctor doesn’t recommend CPAP for some other reason like previous medical history, the patient usually has to think about surgery.  Let’s look at the surgery options available for sleep apnea patients.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty – Surgery for Sleep Apnea

This is the standard surgery procedure being followed for obstructive sleep apnea patients. Tissue that isn’t vital in function is removed from the throat. This tissue includes the adenoids, tonsils, uvula and pharynx.

Removing the Soft Palate: The soft palate is the soft tissue that extends from the back of the mouth’s roof and into the throat space. Because this isn’t extremely important for the normal functioning of the patient, it is one of the tissues selected for removal. The soft palate obstructs the airway in some cases and increases the symptoms of sleep apnea.  Removing these unnecessary parts can be done through laser surgery.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) as part of the Stanford Protocol Operation:

In this operation, UPPP is just the first step of this multi-step operation to mainly widen the patient airways and enable increased airflow. With this protocol, the doctors who created it were of the opinion that there are multiple parts within the mouth that contribute to a higher occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea and removal of these parts gradually will maximize chances of recovery. There are two phases to this operation with the first involving the removal of soft tissues. Genioglossus advancement where the base of the tongue is positioned ahead by making changes to the points at which the tongue muscles are attached to the lower jaw is also performed as part of the first phase.

In the second phase, maxillomandibular advancement is done where both the top jaw and the bottom are moved ahead surgically. This also ends up further moving the tongue ahead in position from where it doesn’t block the airways. Usually the tongue obstructs when relaxed in sleep apnea patients. These two procedures are very effective in preventing obstructive sleep apnea. While the first phase isn’t very successful in treating symptoms, the second phase is very much so. Symptoms like snoring which are a result of sleep apnea drastically decrease once this procedure is done.

Complications from Surgery Options

However, one must also be well aware of the complications that can result from this surgery. There can be considerable pain and possibly infection. Next, widening the throat in this way can affect your vocal cords and speech. These possibilities should be kept in mind before agreeing to get this surgery done.

by Michelle Polissaint