Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Surgery - Overview

Surgery may be a part of the treatment plan for some patients with obstructive sleep apnea or snoring. Your sleep team may recommend surgery if you are unable to tolerate CPAP therapy, which is the most effective treatment option for OSA.

Some surgeries are minimally invasive, while others are much more complex. The goal of surgery is to treat the areas of the airway that collapse and block your breathing during sleep.  Surgery may stiffen, remove or reposition tissues in and around your throat. These surgeries may focus on the:

  • Soft palate and uvula
  • Tonsils and adenoids
  • Tongue
  • Upper and lower jaw

Weight loss surgery also is an option for obese patients.

Treating obstructive sleep apnea through surgery is a team effort. The board certified sleep medicine physician collaborates with the sleep team to provide the highest quality of care.

The physician will detect and diagnose your sleep apnea. He or she will perform a detailed examination of the entire upper airway before discussing your possible treatment options. The physician may direct you to an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon (ENT) or oral surgeon who can perform the surgery. After the surgery is complete, you will need to follow up with a board certified sleep medicine physician.

If you are considering surgery to treat your sleep apnea, make sure to ask your doctor the following questions:

  • What is the success rate of the surgery?
  • How will this procedure improve my snoring or sleep apnea?
  • Why is surgery a better option for me than CPAP or oral appliance therapy?
  • What are all of the possible risks and side effects?

Surgery is not the right choice for everyone. Some people may benefit more from surgery than others. Negative aspects of surgery may include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding and throat swelling
  • Jaws wired shut for several days and a limited diet for several weeks
  • Overnight hospital stay

In many cases, the benefits may not be permanent. Sleep apnea may reoccur at a later time for some patients.

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