Healthy Living

The Surgical Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

The Surgical Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Is there actually surgery for snoring or sleep apnea? It may sound a bit weird for some, but, at times, surgery may be the only effective option if sleep apnea symptoms are severe. Surely surgery is more acceptable in health conditions that may threaten a patient's well-being. Snoring is the typical symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that is now well-acknowledged to increase the risk of a heart attack or even a stroke. So, this makes sleep apnea a condition that should not be ignored, however, more often than not, many do so anyway.

Sleep apnea touches the lives of about 4-5% of adults, and some of them may have quite a severe form of it, characterized by severe hypoxia and frequent awakenings. It is more commonly caused due to anatomical changes in the pharyngeal airway (upper throat), causing its collapse during sleep and thus resulting in respiratory disturbances. Since it is the collapse of the upper respiratory way, surgical correction is an efficient way.

Admittedly, before considering surgery, it is better to give non-invasive or minimally invasive methods a try. Accordingly, one should start by identifying the underlying issues like alcohol abuse, uncontrolled diabetes and obesity, and then they should try to correct them. In some cases, regular exercise may also help symptoms of sleep apnea subside. Oral dental appliances that help by changing the position of the mandible while sleeping may help in some cases. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) has been shown to be the most effective of all the methods that patients consider, but not everyone may benefit from these techniques. While others find both of these treatment methods effective, others may find using dental appliances or CPAP on a daily basis a highly uncomfortable thing. So, in cases where patients fail to benefit from non-invasive methods, surgery may remain the final solution to relieve their symptoms.

Chosen surgical treatment would depend on the site of obstruction, which could be anywhere from nose to throat. Here, we have listed some of the most common surgical methods used to treat sleep apnea.

Nasal Surgery

Believe it or not, nasal congestion is one of the leading causes of sleep apnea. Though medications may help patients in the initial stages, soon they are of little use as it becomes worse. This is an out-patient procedure, and is generally regarded as quite safe as it includes a septoplasty and a reduction of turbinate. Simply stated, this method creates more room inside the nose for air to pass freely and effortlessly.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

This is the most commonly used surgical procedure to treat apnea since the early 1980s. It involves the removal of tonsils and the correction of soft palate and pharynx. The area in the upper airway called oropharynx is the most common site of obstruction in apnea. The procedure also involves the removal of extra soft tissues from the area, and placement of sutures to widen the airway. Though procedure can be a bit painful and may demand a night in the hospital, it benefits patients in a majority of cases.