What is Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

In some patients suffering from sleep apnea, there is too much tissue in the uvula or the soft palate. The uvula is “the soft finger-like tissue that hangs down from the roof of the mouth into the throat” while the soft palate is “part of the roof of the mouth.” In this case a surgical procedure known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is sometimes undertaken.

Benefits Depend on Obstruction Cause

This form of surgery can prove beneficial to some patients but not others. The cause of the airway obstruction plays a big role in deciding what type of treatment and/or surgery is required. Also known as UPPP this surgery involves the removal of the tonsils as well as parts of the uvula and soft palate.

In some cases excess tissue from the throat such as the adenoids and tonsils must be removed as well. There are also cases where a patients tongue is so big that it causes breathing problems and therefore a small portion of it must be taken out. This procedure alone is known as an uvulopalatopharyngoglossoplasty.


After undergoing UPPP the patient might still find it necessary to require continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is simply a breathing apparatus resembling a mask that is worn over the face at night to allow a patient an easier time breathing and to discourage the airways from closing up during sleep time.

There might be some discomfort after this kind of surgery is dome however there are some types of pain medication that patients are not advised to take because of the role they play in relaxing the muscles of the throat. These forms of medicine could serve to narrow breathing passages and therefore bring on an apneic event (or sleep apnea episode).

Good Candidates

UPPP surgery is generally done for those whom the doctor has diagnosed has having sleep apnea due to too much tissue in their mouth, throat or nose that restricts the flow of air. As well those patients who either cannot use or do not want to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are encouraged to consider uvulopalatopharyngoplasty as a viable option for their health condition.

Also those patients who have been using CPAP for a considerable length of time but do not notice any great improvement might do well to consider UPPP surgery. Finally those who suffer from severe sleep apnea but do not want to proceed with a tracheostomy to help them might want to consider this surgical alternative.

Adults more often undergo this form of surgery than do children. For children who experience sleep apnea their adenoids and tonsils are often removed although this form of surgery is not done as often as it was in past generations.


UPPP carries with it a certain amount of risks or complications. Sometimes there is damage done to neighboring tissues and blood vessels, which can lead to other health concerns. As well some medications taken for pain can lead to sleep apnea episodes and a general feeling of not having had enough sleep.

Often times patients will experience swelling, pain, some bleeding and sometimes infections do arise. Speech is not always the same after a UPPP procedure. Many patients notice a nasal quality to their voice after having the surgery. Finally the airway for both the nose and the throat can become narrowed after this surgery takes place.