Surgery is typically considered a last-line treatment for sleep apnea. There are many reasons why it’s good to put surgery off. It’s an expensive treatment with a relatively low success rate. And even if it is initially successful, the results may decrease over time, so that people will develop sleep apnea over again.
But perhaps the biggest reason to avoid surgery for sleep apnea is the risk of complications. People with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer serious respiratory complications related to anesthesia, which can make surgery more risky. And then there are the complications of the surgery itself: serious bleeding, infection, etc. New technology may help to reduce these risks, making the surgery safer for appropriate candidates.
A Long-Time Sufferer Finally Gets Results
This story focused on Anthony Rinando, a man who had been struggling with sleep apnea for 15 years. He had tried many solutions, including CPAP and oral appliances, but nothing worked. The problem: his tonsils. Tonsils are supposed to help the body by trapping bacteria, but they can also obstruct breathing. Rinando was scheduled to have his tonsils removed to improve his sleep apnea, but the doctor balked.
The doctor didn’t attempt the surgery because he was concerned that Rinando’s tonsils were too large. He was afraid that the risk Rinando would bleed out on the table during surgery was too great. Cutting in the confined area of the throat is a challenge for doctors, and surgical mistakes in this area are a major concern.
Since his first doctor couldn’t help him, Rinando sought relief from another doctor. This doctor performed a new type of robotic surgery, which utilizes a small, snake-like extension to bring a camera and tools right to the surgical site so that sleep apnea surgery can be performed with greater precision and potentially lower risks.
For Rinando, the procedure went really well, and his sleep apnea was significantly improved.
A New Surgical Tool
The Flex System is a relatively new surgical tool, so we don’t yet know how well it will help patients overall. The first publication on its use–a short case series with just three patients including one sleep apnea patient–was printed in 2015, so this is a very new technique. Although the technology has been cleared by the FDA, this was done via the 510 (k) process, based on its similarity to existing technology, not its novel ability to improve treatment, so we don’t really know how much this technology will improve surgery and reduce risks. We’re not prepared to endorse it, although it seems to have worked well in this case and may work well in others, too.
Finding the Right Sleep Apnea Treatment
Treating sleep apnea could literally be life-saving. And it’s not just your life that’s in the balance: coworkers who depend on your alertness, and even the family in your car may be at risk from your sleep apnea. We offer alternatives to CPAP that help many people get the treatment they need.
We are also in contact with an extensive network of sleep doctors who can help you get other sleep apnea treatment that may be appropriate for you.