Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure that removes excess
tissue in the throat to make the airway wider. This sometimes can allow air to
move through the throat more easily when you breathe, reducing the severity of
sleep apnea (OSA). The tissues that are removed may
The soft finger-shaped tissue that hangs down from
the back of the roof of the mouth into the throat (uvula).
When Dave Williams fell asleep while stopped at a red light 12 years ago, he had to face up to a problem. "I was falling asleep at inappropriate times," says Williams, then 45, a business consultant in Cordova, Tenn. His doctor diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which breathing pauses repeatedly during sleep, and symptoms include loud snoring at night and sleepiness during the day.
"People who have sleep apnea typically don't have any problems with their breathing while they're...
Some pain medicines can relax the throat muscles. You may have to
avoid these medicines after surgery to make it less likely that your airways
will narrow and cause apnea episodes.
Why It Is Done
Your doctor may suggest UPPP if you:
Have excess tissue in your nose, mouth, or
throat that blocks your airway.
Choose not to use (or cannot use)
Do not get better after using CPAP.
Do not want
to have an opening made in your windpipe (tracheostomy) to treat sleep
Children usually do not have UPPP. For them, removing the tonsils
and adenoids usually cures sleep apnea.
How Well It Works
UPPP may reduce sleep apnea in some people, but results are mixed.1, 2
UPPP may stop snoring, but apnea episodes may continue.3
Even if surgery successfully removes the blockage, you may still
need CPAP after surgery.
Complications during surgery include accidental damage to
surrounding blood vessels or tissues.
Complications after surgery may include:
problems. The surgery may result in a nasal quality to the
Changes in how food tastes.
Swelling, pain, infection, or bleeding.
Narrowing of the airway in the nose and throat.
Sleepiness and periods of not breathing (apnea)
related to the medicines that are used to relieve pain and help you
What To Think About
Before considering surgery, you should try CPAP.
You will need a
sleep study after UPPP surgery to find out if your
sleep apnea has improved. If you still stop breathing at night, you may still
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is sometimes used to
treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, although not all people
benefit. This procedure is not recommended by the American Academy of Sleep
Medicine to treat sleep apnea.4, 5
People who are
obese or who have some other illnesses are more likely
to have complications after UPPP.6