The 3 Main Types of Throat Surgery for Sleep Apnea Your 2 Minute Guide

Dentist at work in dental roomSleep apnea can be treated with a number of non-invasive methods. However, some patients who have more severe conditions of sleep apnea may opt to undergo surgery. Often times, throat surgery is the last resort when other treatments have not proved successful.

The various surgery procedures generally aim to reduce the amount of tissue in the nose and throat that collapse and block the airways to allow for better airflow. Performed by an otolaryngologists or ENT specialist, there are three main types of throat surgery available for sleep apnea.

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – This procedure involves the removal of soft tissues causing blockage of the upper airway at the back of the throat. The uvula, a section of the soft palette and throat are removed. If adenoids and the tonsils are present, these are removed as well. The elimination of these enlarges the upper airway, improves flexibility of the soft palette and reduces the movement of certain muscles in the area to keep the airway open.

UPPP has been proven to be successful 65 percent of the time, most especially if the underlying cause for sleep apnea is an abnormal function of the soft palette. Although this procedure may improve conditions, those with moderate to severe sleep apnea may still need to use continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) afterwards.

Post surgical complications rarely occur, but when it does it may be serious. These may include infection, loss of sense of smell, voice change, mucus buildup in the throat and poor performance of the throat muscles and soft palette.

  • Tonsillectomy – Being one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures around. It involves the removal of enlarged tonsils from the sides of the throat and may be used to treat a variety of health conditions. Common conditions for which tonsillectomy may be used as treatment include obstructive sleep apnea, nasal airway obstruction, recurrent acute tonsillitis or adenoiditis and snoring. Adenoidectomy or the removal of adenoids is usually done alongside this procedure.

Tonsillectomy can be 75-100 percent successful for treating obstructive sleep apnea in children. It is a relatively low risk surgery, with the biggest hazard being post –operative bleeding which has a 2-4 percent morbidity rate.

  • Semnoplasty – A fairly new surgical procedure being used to treat sleep apnea and chronic snoring. An FDA approved type of surgery this can be done as an outpatient procedure and does not require any hospital stay. It involves using radio frequency tissue ablation (RFTA) for reducing tissues in the base of the tongue and airway which may cause obstruction. RFTA burns the tissues through a mildly heated electrode known as a Somnus device.

This results in stiffening of the tissues which reduces the amount of tissues blocking the air passage.

Aside from being minimally invasive, it has high success rates. Complications linked to Semnoplasty are those commonly found with ENT surgeries and is treatable with proper medication. On the downside, more than one session may be needed for successful Semnoplasty and there are not many doctors performing the surgery yet.

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