The procedure called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty -- which involves removing soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate -- has been used since 1990, writes Yehuda Finkelstein, MD, a researcher at Meir Hospital, Sapir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel. His study appears in the April Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
It "has become a popular treatment for the management of snoring," he writes. However, recent studies have shown that a large proportion of patients develop significant worsening of sleep problems, and only a few patients had satisfactory relief from their sleep problems.
In his study, Finkelstein tracked the progress of 26 patients who had LAUP for sleep apnea. Initial results were encouraging; up to 88% saw "significant improvements" in snoring. However, a year or so later, there was a "significant deterioration in the favorable results ... and significant aggravation" in snoring.
Important note: Though snoring was worse, the noise quality did seem to improve, he reports. After talking to bed partners, he found that the frequency of the snoring sound was changed -- and was "less annoying to the human ear."
He speculates that scarring caused by lasers may be the root of the problem.
Nevertheless, "we achieved a surgical success in only one third of our patients and found a deterioration ... in a considerable number," Finkelstein writes. These facts are "cause for concern" and suggest that LAUP might not be an appropriate procedure to treat sleep apnea.