A Peaceful Night’s Sleep

When CPAP Isn't Enough: Surgical Options For People With Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Approximately 20 percent of Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that either stops or slows their breathing down to a dangerous point while they're sleeping. In most cases, the condition is treated without surgery, at least in the beginning. Oral devices that prevent the collapse of soft tissues in the throat and CPAP, continuous positive air pressure, are extremely popular treatment options. However, they don't work for everybody. When they don't, surgery may help. Following are a few surgical options for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. 


Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP is a surgical procedure that removes soft tissue in the throat and airway to increase the width of the throat and improve the function of the soft palate. In this surgery, tissue is often removed from the soft palate and throat. In addition, the uvula, tonsils, and adenoids may be removed. Of all the surgeries for obstructive sleep apnea, UPPP is the most invasive. It is also the most common. In some cases, UPPP does away with the need for a CPAP. However, many people find that they still have to use their CPAP machine after surgery.

Pillar Palatal Implant

Pillar palatal implant is a less invasive option. In this procedure, which is performed in your surgeon's office, string is implanted in the soft tissue of the palate to prevent it from vibrating and collapsing. This procedure has shown some moderate success in preventing snoring. However, its effectiveness at treating moderate to severe sleep apnea is not known. For this reason, it is only recommended as a treatment for snoring and mild sleep apnea. 


Tracheostomy is a highly effective and straightforward procedure in which a hole is created in the neck and windpipe to allow breathing through the trachea. Since it creates a permanent opening in the neck and can be psychologically traumatizing, this procedure is reserved for the most severe, life-threatening cases of obstructive sleep apnea. It is usually only considered when other treatment options have failed. 

Other surgical procedures may be considered if you have special circumstances. For example, if you have a malformed or misplaced jawbone, your surgeon may move it during surgery to improve your breathing. If you have an overly large tongue, it may be trimmed during surgery. If you have a deviated septum, it may also be repaired. Your surgeon will tailor your surgery to address the physical features that are contributing to your condition. For more information, contact Mid America Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic PC or a similar organization.