Surgery for Sleep Apnoea


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Medication is not generally thought to be of any help for sleep apnoea (also spelled 'sleep apnea') sufferers. However, there are several surgical options available. Although surgery would be an extreme option, it is available should other procedures and aids not be beneficial. Obviously, surgery will only be considered after other attempts have been made and your sleep disorder will most probably need assessing in a sleep clinic, and a doctors full approval for the surgery to take place.

Surgeries available are:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) for Sleep Apnoea

The first task with this surgery would be to learn how to pronounce it! Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty involves removing part of the soft palate, the uvula and the tonsils in order to enlarge the throat and ease airway access. The success rates with this surgery are very 50/50 and are often reduced after time as the surgery improvements begin to decrease. Evidently, it will only be necessary to operate this surgery if it is the soft palate, uvula and tonsils that are causing the blockage. People will blockages elsewhere (obese people normally have obstructions further into their airways) will respond less well to this surgery.

Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) for Sleep Apnoea

Laser Assisted uvulopalatoplasty is more commonly used for snoring problems and only mild forms of sleep apnoea. It invovles a surgery that is performed under local anaesthetic and the laser is used to remove the uvula and part of the palate in several small procedures (up to five in four to eight week intervals). This can cause an increased dryness of the throat after surgery and in some paitients it is a concern that sleep apnoea is left undetected as the snoring (the most noticable symptom at night) ceases and the sleep apnoea continues. Therefore, if you have a serious case of sleep apnoea you may be advised against this type of surgery.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Sleep Apnoea

Radiofrequency Ablation can be used for many different reasons including sleep apnoea and can also be used in a similar way to LAUP but instead of lasers it involves radiofrequency. The radiofequeny waves are used to shrink tissue at the back of the tongue. The benefits of this procedure are that it can be performed in a doctors surgery and has been seen to have reduced complications and uncomfortableness compared to LAUP.

Tracheostomy for Sleep Apnoea

Tracheostomy is the oldest method used to treat sleep apnoea. It is the most effective of surgeries, having a success rate of nearly 100%. However, it is an extreme surgery and is only recommended in severe cases of sleep apnoea and potentially life-threatening cases. The procedure involves placing a tube directly through the patients neck into the windpipe. It is only used in rare cases now as UPPP is favoured first.

For children who suffer from sleep apnoea surgery is available with a removal of tonsils and adenoids and this does have a success rate with a cure of 75% and above.

As with any sleep disorder, it is a matter of finding the right treatment for your sleep apnoea and evidently the less complicated methods will be employed first. If you do feel as though you could be suffering from sleep apnoea, then do not suffer in silence. Generally this disorder can be treated, and with simple methods in a lot cases. Try and complete a sleep diary to assess the extent your sleep disorder is having an effect on your life and do not hesitate to contact your doctor for professional diagnosis and advice.


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