Sleep Apnea? 3 Less Invasive Alternatives To UPPP Surgery

Posted on: 16 September 2015

By far the most popular type of sleep apnea surgery over the past 25 years, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty removes a great deal of tissue from the back of the throat, including the entire uvula and portions of the soft palate and throat. The goal of the surgery is to open up the airway in an effort to lessen both the frequency and severity of sleep apnea episodes. Approximately 65 percent of people do see an improvement after UPPP surgery. However, it is a painful procedure after which a good portion of people don't experience any positive results. Fortunately, there are other options. Following are four alternatives to UPPP surgery. 

The Pillar Procedure

Since it is not as invasive as UPPP surgery, the pillar procedure can be done under local anasthesia in a doctor's office. Therefore, it is much easier to recover from than more invasive surgeries. During the procedure, three short pieces of polyester string are placed into the soft palate to support it and prevent it from collapsing, vibrating or moving. This treatment is recommended for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea as well as those plagued by snoring. 

Hyoid Advancement

Another minimally invasive procedure, the hyoid advancement, moves the hyoid bone forward to expand the airway and prevent collapse. The procedure, which takes about an hour, is performed through two small incisions in the neck. Although this is a relatively new treatment, it has been one of the more successful ones. 

Tongue Advancement

There are two procedures that are used by surgeons to move the tongue forward, resulting in a more open airway. The first procedure is moderately invasive and involves removing the part of the jawbone where the tongue attaches and moving it forward along with the base of the tongue. The second procedure is less invasive and is similar to that of hyoid advancement. In this procedure, the tongue is held forward with a cord that's fastened to the lower jawbone. 

These less invasive procedures cannot usually be performed in severe cases of sleep apnea. In fact, more invasive procedures, such as lower jaw repositioning and tracheostomy, are often used in severe cases. 

You may be able to avoid surgery altogether if you make a solid commitment to use your CPAP machine regularly. If you don't like to use the machine, surgery may be an option for you. However, you should know that surgery may not completely eliminate the need for your machine while you're sleeping.