sleeping at a table

What are the Surgery Options for Snoring?

When snoring becomes a serious sleep disturbance and other treatment options aren’t working, surgery may be recommended as a last resort. Surgery is typically only recommended in cases where lifestyle changes, CPAP machines and anti-snoring devices aren’t providing relief.

There are a number of surgery options for snoring. Most procedures involve the soft palate or the nose.

If you’ve exhausted all of your other options and are still struggling with snoring, surgery may be the next step for you. Here are your options:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP, is the most common procedure performed on people with obstructive sleep apnea.

During the procedure, surgeons rearrange the tissue of the palate, uvula and throat walls to increase the size of the airway and decrease tissue collapse.

Tissues that may be removed include:

  • Parts of the roof of the mouth (soft palate)
  • The finger-shaped tissue that hangs from the back of the roof of the mouth (uvula)
  • Throat (excess), including adenoids and tonsils

If an enlarged tongue is the issue, the surgeon may remove a small part of the tongue.

UPPP can stop snoring, but those with sleep apnea may continue to have apnea episodes.

Potential Side Effects

The procedure has been refined over the years to minimize potential long-term side effects, like voice changes, swallowing problems and the constant feeling of a foreign body in the throat. While rare, these side effects are still possible.

Other potential side effects include:

  • Changes in how food tastes
  • Speech problems
  • Pain, swelling, bleeding or infection
  • Sleepiness
  • Apnea episodes

The sleepiness and apnea episodes are related to the medications used to relieve pain and help you sleep better.

Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)

Maxillomandibular Advancement, or MMA, is another procedure designed to treat sleep apnea, but it may also be used to treat snoring.

During the procedure, surgeons reposition the bones of the upper and lower jaw to alleviate airway obstruction. It also changes the position of the pharyngeal airway muscles and increases pharyngeal soft tissue tension.

MMA affects the airways at all levels, which makes it effective for sleep apnea treatment. While not designed specifically for snoring, patients often report that they stop snoring after the procedure.

The effects of the procedure are much like the anti-snoring devices you find on the market today. But, of course, the effects are permanent and do not require you to wear a mouthpiece each night.

Potential Side Effects

In one study of the procedure, 50 patients were observed after the surgery. No serious complications were observed after the procedure. The most frequent complication was mental nerve sensory loss.

Of course, cosmetic changes were reported, as the surgery literally repositions the jaw. But patients reported experiencing deeper sleep after the procedure.

Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

Another procedure for obstructive sleep apnea that can also alleviate snoring. With hypoglossal nerve stimulation, a device is implanted inside of the body that stimulates the nerve that moves the tongue forward to prevent obstruction of the airways during sleep.

The device has a few different parts. The main part of the system is a pulse generator, which is similar to a pacemaker. It delivers a signal to the nerve through a stimulation lead. The sensing lead measures breathing patterns, which allows the system to send the signal to push the tongue forward when breathing in. The third part of the system is a remote control that allows the patient to adjust the system, and turn it off and on.

Not everyone is a good candidate for this procedure, and it’s still relatively new.

Somnoplasty

A surgical treatment designed for snoring, somnoplasty uses heat energy to modify the tissues of the soft palate and the uvula. The in-office procedure requires local anesthesia.

Somnoplasty removes the stiffening soft tissues of the soft palate and the uvula using low levels of radiofrequency heat energy. The method creates a finely-controlled localized burn area underneath the lining of soft tissues of the soft palate.

The burn areas are reabsorbed by the body, which shrinks and stiffens the tissues.

The entire procedure only takes about 30 minutes to complete. About 80% of patients see a significant reduction in snoring for at least a year.

Potential Side Effects

It’s important to note that somnoplasty is not an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. If this is the cause of your snoring, one of the above-listed procedures may be a better option. Speak with your doctor.

Potential side effects of somnoplasty include:

  • Nasal regurgitation
  • Velopharyngeal insufficiency (liquids may flow into the nasal cavity) – rare
  • Need for more aggressive surgery
  • Prolonged pain
  • Impaired healing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Electrical or thermal damage to the mucus membranes of the mouth, uvula or soft palate

It’s possible that snoring may return after a year or more, as the tissue may stretch over time.

Coblation

Coblation helps reduce the intensity and loudness of snoring by using gentle radiation frequency energy. The procedure dissolves the targeted soft palate tissue. After the procedure is complete, the soft palate stiffens and shrinks, which reduces the snoring sound.

Coblation leaves nearby tissue unharmed and uses low temperatures to minimize discomfort.

Pillar Procedure

A minimally-invasive procedure designed to reduce the intensity and loudness of snoring. The surgery is designed to stiffen the soft palate, which makes it less likely to vibrate and reduces the classic snoring sound. At the same time, it also prevents the tissue from collapsing and obstructing the airway.

During the procedure, surgeons insert woven implants into the soft palate. The entire process takes less than 20 minutes. Most people are able to resume their normal daily activities, including eating, the very same day of the procedure.

If anti-snoring devices, lifestyle changes and CPAP machines aren’t giving you the relief you need, talk to your doctor about your surgical options. Keep in mind that not all surgeries are 100% effective, so weigh the risks of undergoing a surgical procedure against the odds of seeing results to make an informed decision. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about potentially permanent side effects, too.

About the author

Tim Brewer

Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.

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