For people with more severe obstructive sleep apnea, a surgeon may recommend a procedure that requires general anesthesia and admission to a hospital. Depending on your anatomy, a surgeon may recommend a combination of procedures.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a procedure to remove the uvula, tonsils, and parts of the soft palate. Doctors use small surgical instruments to excise the tissues blocking the airway, increasing its size and thereby improving airflow and reducing apnea episodes. In addition, scar tissue that develops as a result of the procedure can stiffen the walls of the airway and prevent the soft palate from collapsing while you sleep.
This procedure can cause discomfort, and your throat may be very sore for a few weeks. Our pain management specialists provide medication as recommended by your doctor to ensure that you are comfortable while you heal. Doctors estimate that complete recovery takes six to eight weeks.
If the tongue becomes flaccid while you sleep and collapses toward the back of the throat, it can block the upper airway. To help relieve your obstructive sleep apnea, our surgeons may recommend a procedure to make the back of the tongue smaller, advance it toward the front of the mouth, or remove a small piece of tissue along the bottom part.
A surgeon may perform tongue surgery in addition to uvulopalatopharyngoplasty if multiple structures in the airway are causing the obstructions. Your surgeon can determine whether both procedures are necessary based on the results of a physical exam.
Surgeons perform these procedures using general anesthesia. Most people remain in the hospital overnight for observation while the tongue starts to heal.
After surgery, doctors suggest a diet of very soft foods for three weeks and may prescribe pain medication to help you recover comfortably.
Nasal obstruction sometimes causes or contributes to sleep apnea. If the cause is structural—for example, if a deviated septum is obstructing the airway—doctors may recommend surgery. These procedures require no external incisions; surgeons access the nasal passages through the nostrils using small surgical instruments. The nose doesn’t look different after surgery.
Nasal surgery is performed using general anesthesia, and most procedures take about one hour. Most people return home the same day and completely recover in about a week.
In maxillomandibular advancement, surgeons reposition the upper jaw, called the maxilla, and the lower jaw, called the mandible, shifting them forward permanently. This pulls the soft tissues of the back of the tongue and the soft palate away from the throat, creating more room for air to flow.
Generally, doctors recommend this procedure only for people who have not benefited from soft palate surgery or whose anatomy suggests that soft palate surgery alone may not correct the obstructions causing sleep apnea. For example, a person with a very narrow space between the back of the tongue and the throat—called the retrolingual space—may be a candidate for maxillomandibular advancement.
Surgeons perform this procedure using general anesthesia. Most people remain in the hospital for two or three days so doctors can monitor the airway. During this time, pain management specialists ensure that you have appropriate medication to recover comfortably.