Surgery Options to Stop Snoring
Among the medical community, surgery is a last resort for snorers. However, if you’re a severe snorer, you may have considered surgery to end the nuisance (and health concerns) of snoring. If you’re considering more serious options for your snoring issues, you’ll want to know what’s out there, and what choices may be right for you.
This tongue-twister of a procedure is named for two structures in the throat: the uvula and the palate. The uvula is small, finger-shaped and hangs down from the top of the throat; it’s visible when you open your mouth wide and look in a mirror. The palate is the vault-shaped dome at the roof of the mouth.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) involves removing excess tissue that may be relaxing too much and hanging down to partially cover airways, contributing to snoring. Various structures in and around the mouth and throat slip down and vibrate during sleep as the body attempts to draw in air around them. The procedure seeks to remove those obstructions. Excess throat tissue, the adenoids and the tonsils may all be removed, or just one of these structures.
UPPP is not recommended until the patient has attempted other lifestyle changes, including changing sleep position, losing weight and possibly trying a CPAP machine, which forces air through the mouth at night to keep the body oxygenated. The success rate for this procedure is between 43% and 73%.
One drawback of the procedure is that if you develop sleep apnea after the procedure (or already have it but don’t know it), it may take longer to diagnose as the main feature – snoring – is not present.
If the septum – the structure that separates the two passages of the nose – is improperly placed (congenital, or from birth) or has been knocked out of position due to trauma, snoring can result.
Nasal septoplasty is a plastic surgery that restructures the septum so that it is straight and so that each of the nasal passages receives an equal amount of air.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is another procedure that removes tissue. In this case, a laser is used.
LAUP is most commonly used when upper airway resistance syndrome is diagnosed. This condition involves tissues partially but not completely covering airways during sleep.
LAUP will not cure sleep apnea, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not recommend this procedure for individuals who suffer from this condition.
Tonsilectomy or Adenoidectomy
In individuals who have enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, removing these structures may help with snoring issues.
Generally, these procedures are used in children who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They are not recommended for treating snoring in children. They are very rarely used in adults with sleep issues.
These procedures are also used in children who suffer frequent infections of the organs and who frequently get colds.
Polyps – soft, round, benign tissues – occur in various parts of the body. If they occur in the nose, they may obstruct the airway during sleep. With nasal polypectomy, the polyps are surgically removed.
Soft Palate Implants
A rarer form of snore surgery is the implantation of tiny cylinders into the soft palate. This procedure is said to stiffen the area so that it doesn’t vibrate as much during sleep. The result should be a reduction in snoring.
This may help reduce snoring as it opens up the airways to their maximum benefit.
Possible Side Effects of Surgery
Side effects of any of these surgeries may include:
- Temporarily reduced air flow, especially due to post-surgery swelling. In some cases, the blood oxygen will be measured regularly for about 24 hours following surgery.
- Excessive bleeding.
- Blood clots.
- Excessive swelling.
- Failure of the surgery to correct the problem.
Is Surgery Your Best Option?
Most doctors consider surgery to be a last effort for curing snoring issues. Most of the above procedures permanently alter or even remove structures in the body. Unless snoring is severely compromising one’s health and no other measures have worked, your doctor will probably try to steer you away from surgery.
Surgery is not an option to be taken lightly. Discuss all options with your doctor. Also let her know what measures you’ve already taken to correct your snoring issues.
A sleep study may be your best bet for determining just how deeply and how frequently you snore, how much snoring is impacting your sleep and whether your oxygen levels are being affected. Once you have this information, your doctor will discuss with you what your best options are.
There are other options available, so if you’re leery of surgery, try these first:
- Chin straps. A chin strap holds your lower jaw in place so that it doesn’t pull back during sleep and obstruct your breathing.
- Mouth pieces. These are more comfortable than ever and can hold your jaws in place, making breathing easier during sleep.
- Nasal strips. These have a lower success rate than chin straps or mouth pieces, but some snorers find nasal strips hold the nose open just enough to make sleeping more comfortable and reduce snoring.
- Lifestyle changes. Losing weight, getting more exercise, sleeping on your side or stomach rather than your back and using a supportive pillow that holds your neck straight can all help with snoring.