E-Zzzzz Solution to Snoring Gaining Acceptance
May 24, 2000 -- Snoring is not a laughing matter, especially if you're the
person on the other side of the bed. There are hundreds of devices and
"cures" for the annoying problem, some surgical, and painful. But there
are no promises, outside of divorce, that the problem will go away.
David R. Hillman, MD, and colleagues at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in
Nedlands, Australia, have done a study of "a simple, minimally invasive
treatment that has the potential to reduce snoring," says Hillman.
The procedure is known as radiofrequency tissue volume reduction (RFTVR) of
the soft palate, and it's relatively new. It's also known by the name of
somnoplasty, because the device used in the procedure is manufactured by a
California company called Somnus Technologies, which provided funds for
Many practitioners are now trained to use the device, and the procedure is
gaining popularity in the U.S. The device was cleared for marketing by the FDA
in 1997 as an aid for the treatment of habitual snoring. But Hillman writes in
the study, which was published in the May issue of the journal Archives of
Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, that there have been few
published studies on it.
Snoring occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep, causing the soft
tissues in the back of the mouth and throat to collapse, partially blocking the
airway. RFTVR applies radio frequency to the uvula (the teardrop-shaped piece
of flesh at the back of the throat) and the soft palate (the roof of the
mouth), through a needle electrode, essentially causing what Hillman describes
to WebMD as a lesion "similar to a low-grade burn."
As the lesion heals, the body's resorption of the tissue shrinks and
stiffens the uvula or soft palate, reducing the vibration and opening up the
Hillman and colleagues recruited 20 adults who had "socially
problematic" snoring, but not the more severe problem of "clinically
significant" sleep apnea -- in which people stop breathing for varying
amounts of time during sleep. The patients then underwent procedures to the
back, the middle, and the front of the soft palate, during three separate
Hillman tells WebMD that the procedure is "simple and quick." It's
usually accomplished in minutes under local anesthesia. "Postoperative side
effects are minimal. There is little pain," he says. What pain exists is
easily controlled with simple pain relievers, and speech and swallowing
"are not affected to any significant degree." The patients were able to
return to work the same day.
Eighteen of the 20 patients reported a "subjective improvement" in
their snoring after eight weeks of follow-up, Hillman says. Eight of the
patients described more than a 50% reduction in their snoring. Mouth ulcers did
form after three treatments, but they did not affect the outcome and healed
within a few days.