Sleep Apnea Surgery

Up until the early 1980s the only surgery available for sleep apnea sufferers was to undergo a tracheostomy. In this case a tiny hole is surgically cut in the neck area and a tube that contains a valve is inserted into the skin. Throughout the daytime in order for the patient to talk the hole is closed but at night it is opened to keep the airway clear.

This surgical procedure is very rarely used today in favor of other methods although it does have a high success rate. In cases of people who are deemed extremely ill it is used to prevent respiratory distress or other serious medical problems.

Today if surgery is undertaken it is dependent on the specific cause of the sleep apnea. It is also more likely to be used on those who suffer from sever sleep apnea as opposed to mild or moderate forms of the disorder.


Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a form of surgery that involves removes the tonsils, a portion of the soft palate and the uvula (“the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of the roof of the mouth”). This surgical procedure is helpful for some sleep apnea patients but not all.

Similar to UPPP is laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP), which involves a laser instrument being inserted into the mouth in order for it to remove a portion of the soft palate as well as the uvula. This type of surgery is very effective at decreasing or completely obliterating snoring, which is often one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. However it is not likely to make sleep apnea go away entirely.

Mandibular Myotomy

Mandibular myotomy can be broken down this way- mandibular is concerned with the lower jaw bone while myotomy is the “surgical division of a muscle with genioglossis (chin and tongue) advancement.” When this surgery is undertaken a portion of bone is removed from the anterior or front part of the jawbone where the muscles of the tongue are connected.

The portion of bone, which is of a rectangular size, is then stretched in an outward motion and then rotated approximately on a ninety-degree angle and then attached again so that it “overrides the defect produced by the osteotomy (cutting of bone) where it is reattached.” What this surgery accomplishes is that the tongue is brought forward anyway from six to ten millimeters and does away with the airway obstruction.


The newest form of surgery to be utilized for sleep apnea sufferers is known as the radio frequency procedure (RF) or is sometimes called somnoplasty. This has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is effective at eliminating snoring by way of radio waves that are able to shrink swollen or enlarged tissues that block airways. The long scientific name for this procedure is the “radiofrequency volumetric tissue reduction of the palate.”

There is an even newer approved surgical treatment known as the “radiofrequency volumetric reduction of the tongue” that involves the use of a small needle to pierce the soft palate or tongue. The needle is attached to a radio frequency generator. The inner tissue of the area is then heated to approximately 158- 176 degrees while the outer tissues remain unaffected. A number of treatments are often required and each is likely to take up to and sometimes more than, a half an hour at a time.