Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the throat to become blocked during sleep, causing the sufferer to stop breathing for short periods of time. The condition ranges in levels of severity, from small amounts of excess tissue restricting the airway, to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that causes the tongue to fall into the back of the throat and entirely block the airway.
Sleep apnea patients experience lingering fatigue, waking with headaches, falling asleep inappropriately, irritability, and suffer memory and concentration problems. Additionally, sleep apnea is also associated with heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Those suffering OSA have repetitive sleep disruptions and low blood oxygen levels due to repeated intervals of not breathing. As oxygen levels in the brain lower, the person stirs, clearing the throat obstruction and resumes breathing. Patients with OSA frequently gasp during sleep when airflow returns. Some patients sleep with a CPAP machine that helps keep the airway open and permits regular breathing.
While oral surgery is not typically the first line of defense in treating sleep apnea, it may be an option for some patients when other treatments are not successful, particularly in those who suffer from OSA. Each patient’s experience is different, and there are various surgeries to treat different conditions, including:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): The most common sleep apnea surgery is UPPP, a procedure to remove excess tissue from the soft palate, throat, and along the tonsils or repositions muscles and tissue that may be obstructing the patient’s airway.
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): The LAUP procedure uses laser tools to remove portions of the soft palate and part or all of the patient’s uvula in order to lessen or eliminate snorting issues and help sleep apnea conditions.
- Tongue surgery: There are two types of surgery for sleep apnea that involve the tongue: tongue base reduction or tongue advancement. The reduction procedure removes excess tissue or shrinks it using radiofrequency waves. The advancement procedure involves repositioning the section of jawbone where the main tongue attaches by moving it forward.
- Genioglossus advancement (GGA): Another procedure involving the tongue is the GGA, which moves the tongue muscle forward and tightening the muscle to hold the tongue in place during sleep rather than folding backward and affecting the airway.
- Hyoid advancement: In order to expand the airway and prevent collapse, the hyoid bone, the small bone above the Adam’s apple, is repositioned forward and attached to the thyroid cartilage to hold it in place.
- Nasal surgery: The three structures of the nose can contribute to OSA, particularly if there is excess tissue restricting the airway. Nasal surgery involves adjusting, reducing, or removing tissue to create additional space for unobstructed breathing.
- Jaw surgery: Jaw surgery involves moving the upper and lower jaws forward to enlarge the upper airway.
- Tracheostomy: An extreme surgery for the most severe cases, tracheostomy surgery involves creating an entirely new airway between the trachea and the lungs to facilitate easier breathing.
- Pillar procedure: Mild cases of sleep apnea may be cured with a minimally invasive procedure that reinforces the soft palate and reduces tissue vibration by inserting small rod implants.
Surgical procedures are successful in eliminating sleep apnea conditions for most patients. Before any surgical procedure is performed, patients must undergo a sleep study to determine whether or not they suffer from sleep apnea. Follow-up sleep studies are required following certain surgical procedures as well.
South Jersey Oral Surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons Are Experienced in OSA Corrective Surgery
If you suffer from OSA, one of our experienced South Jersey oral surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons may be able to relieve your symptoms with corrective oral surgery. Call us today at 856-582-4222 or contact us online. Located in Washington Township, Haddonfield, and Woolwich Township, New Jersey, we are dedicated to helping patients throughout South Jersey.