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Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Surgery Overview

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 obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The tissues that are removed may include:

If an enlarged tongue is a factor in your sleep apnea, the surgeon may remove a small part of the tongue. This is called an uvulopalatopharyngoglossoplasty.

What To Expect

You may need continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) therapy after surgery. CPAP therapy uses a breathing device that you wear at night that helps you breathe more easily and prevents your airway from closing during sleep.

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) CPAP.
  • Do not get better after using CPAP.
  • Do not want to have an opening made in your windpipe (tracheostomy) to treat sleep apnea.

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.footnote 1, footnote 2

UPPP may stop snoring, but apnea episodes may continue.

Even if surgery successfully removes the blockage, you may still need CPAP after surgery.

Risks

Complications during surgery include accidental damage to surrounding blood vessels or tissues.

Complications after surgery may include:

  • Problems swallowing.
  • Speech problems. The surgery may result in a nasal quality to the voice.
  • 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 sleep.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Sundaram S, et al. (2005). Surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
  2. Caples SM, et al. (2010). Surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep, 33(10): 1396–1407.

Credits

Current as of: February 24, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Hasmeena Kathuria MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine

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