Types of Sleep Apnea Surgery
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Your airway has several different parts that are meant to work together. When one part isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to breathing problems, including sleep apnea. There are different types of sleep apnea surgery that deal with different aspects of your airway. Some address issues with your nose or throat, others are meant to fix problems with your jaw and mouth. The right type of sleep apnea surgery depends on a thorough examination of your airway. By looking at your airway we can determine the exact cause of your OSA and work towards a cure.
In this post, we will take a quick look at some of the most common types of sleep apnea surgery. We will talk about what each procedure is, what is involved, and when it’s necessary. Our goal in this post is to help you get as much information as possible so you can talk to your doctor and make the right decision.
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Types of Sleep Apnea Surgery Performed by an ENT
Several types of sleep apnea surgery are performed by an ear-nose-and-throat surgeon (or an ENT). Since ENTs specialize in dealing with your nose and throat, they play an important role in treating sleep apnea. In fact, at PRECiDENT we often work with your ENT to make sure you get the right treatment for your unique case. There may be times when we discover that your sleep apnea is primarily caused by problems in your nose and throat. And in these cases, you will need the types of sleep apnea surgery that an ENT performs.
Sometimes excess tissue in your airway is the root of your sleep apnea. This tissue can fall back into your throat when you sleep, which makes it hard for you to breathe. Your body then has to wake itself up in order to breathe again.
In these cases, you might want to consider a type of sleep apnea surgery called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). UPPP is one of the most common types of sleep apnea surgery performed by an ENT. During UPPP your surgeon will open up your airway by removing any excess tissue in your throat. This can include removing tissue from:
- Your uvula
- Parts of the soft palate
- Sides of your throat
Removal of your tonsils and adenoids can also be performed during this type of sleep apnea surgery.
UPPP is a type of sleep apnea surgery usually reserved for patients with severe sleep apnea or those who aren’t responding to more conservative treatments. An examination of your throat will help your ENT know whether or not you are a candidate for this type of sleep apnea surgery. They’ll be able to see where your airway is obstructed. From there they will make a plan for how you can move forward.
Tongue Surgery for Sleep Apnea
For some patients, the size or position of their tongue can cause OSA. If your tongue is too big it can fall back into your throat while you sleep. The same is true if your tongue is positioned too far back in your mouth.
An ENT can adjust the size of your tongue through a type of sleep apnea surgery called tongue reduction surgery. And they can even reposition your tongue with tongue advancement surgery. In both of these procedures, the goal is to make more room for your tongue, which helps it stay out of your throat while you sleep.
To reposition your tongue, the surgeon will make an incision on your jaw bone where your tongue is attached to the bottom of your mouth. Then, they move your tongue forward and hold the bone in its new position with titanium screws.
When reducing your tongue, the surgeon will remove tissue from the back of the tongue. This is often done using radio waves, making it less invasive than other procedures.
As always, an examination of your airway will determine whether or not you are a candidate for either one of these surgeries. Since they are less invasive than other types of sleep apnea surgery they are recommended more often.
Types of Sleep Apnea Surgery Performed by Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons
Other types of surgery for sleep apnea are performed by an oral maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), like the ones at PRECiDENT. An OMS will make adjustments to your jaw in order to make your airway wider. This in turn makes it easier to breathe when you lay down to sleep.
Underdeveloped jaws are one of the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea. If your jaws didn’t grow properly as a child they can impact your airway when you’re older. In order to open up the airway we need to surgically reposition your jaws.
Maxillomandibular advancement surgery (MMA) is another common type of sleep apnea surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon moves your upper and lower jaws forward. This in turn opens up the airway.
MMA surgery is usually performed in an operating room under general anesthesia. Once your jaws are repositioned they will be held in place by titanium plates and screws. Braces will also be placed on your teeth to help maintain the alignment of your bite.
MMA is the most effective type of sleep apnea surgery with a 90% success rate. We usually recommend MMA surgery for patients who are not able to tolerate the CPAP and who have underdeveloped jaws.
Get the Information You Need
To Make the Right Decision
The type of sleep apnea surgery you need will depend on your unique situation. You need a thorough diagnosis that involves an examination of your airway. Once we are able to see what’s causing your sleep apnea, we can move forward with the procedure that will help you breathe again.
If you are in the process of deciding whether or not to move forward with sleep apnea surgery, we want to help you get all the information you need. Check out our Sleep Apnea Surgery Guide to learn more.