Related Media: Tonsillectomy
If problems are identified that may be contributing to sleep apnea, and if the
continuous positive airway pressure
(CPAP) treatment fails, it may be beneficial to have surgery. The types of surgeries include:
for enlarged tonsils
Surgery to straighten a
deviated septumCorrection of facial or jaw deformitiesRemoval of tissue in the throat
The following surgeries are specialized procedures used to treat problems that may be contributing to sleep apnea. Each procedure has variable success rates and the potential for surgical complications.
This procedure involves the removal of extra tissue from the back of the throat, including the tonsils, the uvula, and part of the soft palate.
Although this procedure seems to help improve snoring, it’s not clear whether it also has an effect on sleep apnea. This procedure uses laser techniques to remove tissue from the back of the throat.
An electrode that releases radio waves is used to destroy tissue at the base of the tongue. Most people have noticed decreased snoring and decreased daytime sleepiness after ten 20-minute treatments. This is more effective for snoring, but has not been shown to be effective in the treatment of sleep apnea.
This procedure is rarely performed and reserved for extremely severe cases of sleep apnea. It involves creating a hole called a stoma at the base of the neck and into the windpipe. A tube in the stoma can be plugged during the day so that you can breathe and talk normally. At night, the tube is unplugged, and you breathe through the stoma.
Nasal surgery to remove an obstruction is another way to relieve sleep apnea.
This treament may be used for central sleep apnea. An implanted device stimulates the phrenic nerve to contract the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle under the lungs. When the diaphragm contracts, air is drawn into the lungs.
How is sleep apnea treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2016.
NINDS sleep apnea information page.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep_apnea/sleep_apnea.htm. Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed December 6, 2016.
Position statement: surgical management of obstructive sleep apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/content/surgical-management-obstructive-sleep-apnea. Accessed December 6, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Marcie L. Sidman, MD
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