A Guide To Sleep Apnea Surgery

Sleep apnea surgery can be a comprehensive solution to troublesome obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Here are some guidelines for when and how to get sleep apnea surgery. 

Surgery vs. Other Treatments

It's important to know when to consider sleep apnea surgery as a treatment, because it's often recommended as a last result after you've tried several other procedures. For instance, your doctor may give you a headgear device that helps to hold your airway open at night. There are also machines that provide positive pressure ventilation; these essentially use a small force of air to help open the airway further as you breathe. Sometimes, lifestyle changes can be effective for treating sleep apnea; losing weight may help overweight patients with keeping their airways clear. 

When these treatments don't help to clear your sleep apnea, surgery is a great option for many patients. Even patients with mild sleep apnea can be good candidates for surgery, since there are a variety of techniques for sleep apnea surgery that range in complexity. 

What is the Procedure for Surgery?

The sleep apnea procedure will vary depending on the cause of your sleep apnea. One of the most common options is to remove some of the soft tissue in the back of your throat; this extra tissue can hang down and block the air passage. Sometimes, your surgeon may simply restructure the airway by repositioning some tissue or by adding a stiffer tissue prosthetic to control the shape of the opening. 

Another option is to shrink the size of the tissue without removing it. This can be done using a laser that causes the tissue to tighten around your throat in a controlled way. 

Some patients' sleep apnea is actually a nasal issue, and there are surgeries to target this area. For instance, a misshapen nasal septum can cause breathing problems; your doctor might straighten out this divider between your nostrils during surgery. A doctor may also need to widen the nasal cavity if it is restricting your breathing. These surgeries help to even out your entire airway system so that your breath can flow through the nose and mouth freely. 

When you have a chronic problem with sleep apnea, a surgical procedure may be your best answer for a permanent solution. Your doctor can help you decide which of the treatments will be least invasive to you while providing you with a clearer airway.