Surgery for Sleep Apnea
In addition to numerous devices, there are different surgeries that treat sleep apnea. Each has its own pros and cons. After talking with you and evaluating your airway using special diagnostic methods, we will recommend the most appropriate treatment for you.
Obstruction of the airway passages in the nose may be caused by polyps, a deviated septum, enlarged adenoids, enlarged turbinates (e.g., bones, vessels and tissues within the nose), or a weak nasal valve. Nasal surgery alone rarely cures sleep apnea, but it can improve the results of medical treatments and help with snoring.
Soft palate implants
Placing implants in the soft palate of the mouth is a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in the office. The implants make the palate less likely to relax against the back of the throat during sleep. This reduces the likelihood of snoring and can treat mild sleep apnea.
In this surgery, the tonsils (if they are present) are removed, and excess tissue from the soft palate and throat may be repositioned or trimmed. For the best results, this procedure is often performed in combination with other procedures.
When people sleep, the base of the tongue can relax and fall against the back wall of the throat. This obstructs airflow and causes snoring. By moving the tiny hyoid bone in the neck slightly forward and up, surgeons can expand the airway and prevent the tongue from relaxing against the throat.
In this procedure, the surgeon moves one of the main muscles of the tongue and the bone it is attached to forward in the mouth. This limits the ability of the tongue to fall backward against the throat during sleep.
Tongue base reduction
For some patients, the best treatment is one that reduces the size of the tongue base itself. This may be done with radiofrequency waves or with partial surgical removal.
Hypoglossal nerve stimulator implant
During sleep, the muscles of the throat relax and can block the airway. This nerve stimulator helps restore muscle tone to the upper airway, keeping the airway open during sleep. In 2011, one of our surgeons, Christopher Yang, M.D., was the first on the west coast to implant one of these devices.
Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA)
This surgery involves moving both the upper and lower jaws forward to open the airway. The surgery is customized for each patient through virtual surgical planning. MMA is the second-most successful surgical procedure for treating sleep apnea, particularly if it is very severe.
This surgery bypasses obstructions of the upper airway by creating an opening in the neck directly into the windpipe. While this is considered the most effective procedure for curing sleep apnea, it is not commonly performed and is typically an option of last resort for very severe cases.