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Surgery for Sleep Apnea – Is It The Most Viable Option?

Whether you undergo surgery to fix a broken bone, to remove a growth, or to repair a torn muscle; the idea behind all surgeries, for the most part, is to provide a permanent fix to the problem at hand. For patients diagnosed with sleep apnea, a surgery known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is performed to remove part of the soft palate, uvula, adenoids, and the tonsils in order to remedy airway obstruction while sleeping. Commonly, this surgery is performed on patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – and though UPPP can be successful in some patients; for others, surgery is merely another failed sleep apnea treatment.

Many studies have shown that – in the long run – the success rate of UPPP is very low. In fact, some studies have determined only a 25 percent success rate. With this number in mind, one may wonder why and how this surgery can be so unsuccessful. There are two main reasons: for one, in some patients, airway obstruction isn’t caused by a soft palate problem; and in other patients, the occurrence of scar tissue can recreate the problem.

What some may not realize is that sleep apnea isn’t always caused by the same underlying issue. While UPPP may be a successful way to treat OSA in some patients, it isn’t the most viable method for each and every sleep apneic. For example, surgery isn’t ideal for patients who suffer from OSA due to the position of their jaw when the mouth closes. In some patients, when the mouth closes, the jaw hangs. This leaves the airway vulnerable to obstruction, as the tongue can roll back into the throat during sleep. Surgery wouldn’t be able to correct this problem.

Scar Tissue Can Be Just As Damaging

In other patients, the growth of scar tissues can work against the goal of surgery. When the tissues in the throat or any other place within the body are cut, the body’s natural reaction is to produce scar tissue. Though scar tissue may not be problematic in all patients; for some, high amounts of scar tissue can be just as dangerous as the original soft tissues that were removed during surgery.

While surgery can be successful in some patients; it’s important to remember that surgery is irreversible, invasive and expensive. For these reasons, it’s ideal to exhaust all alternative sleep apnea treatment methods before using surgery for treatment. If you want to learn more about sleep apnea and the available treatments, including the DNA Appliance, contact Dr. Roubal today. Call or email Dr. Roubal’s office to schedule a sleep apnea consultation today.