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Sleep apnea affects millions of people and can lead to serious health issues later in life. Since your body isn't receiving the oxygen it needs, you could be at risk for a heart attack or a stroke when you're older. It can even factor in things such as diabetes and depression. There are many causes and risk factors for this disorder including family history, obesity, and hypertension. Fortunately, there are a variety of surgical options that can improve your situation and help you breathe easier at night.
A common surgery that's performed is a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP for short. This procedure involves trimming down your soft palate and uvula, removing your tonsils and re-positioning muscles. These changes widen the airway in your throat and reduce the level of snoring that signifies a lack of oxygen. By itself, it won't eliminate moderate to severe apnea, but it is the most common option.
Another option for mild to moderate apnea is RFTVR or radiofrequency volumetric tissue reduction. This is a controlled cauterization of tissues around the throat to widen the airway. The soft palate, tonsils, and tongue can all be cauterized, and an RFTVR can help you sleep better in some cases.
If you only have mild apnea or snoring, simple palatal implants can help. Small rods made of fiber are inserted into the soft palate to keep your airways open.
Improving airflow can also be done via a septoplasty. This involves straightening a bent nasal septum, which is the area that separates your nostrils. Turbinate reductions or removals do something similar by removing or reducing the size of your turbinates. Turbinates are the curved structures that stick out the sides of your nose, and these are usually reduced for people dealing with chronic allergies on top of apnea.
When you sleep, your tongue can move back and block air from going into your throat. A genioglossus advancement involves making an incision on your lower jaw where the tongue's attached. Then, the whole section is moved forward, which leaves your airways open at night when the tongue moves back.
If your apnea is caused by obesity, then weight loss surgery could also be an option. It's not usually advised just for treating this disorder, but breathing easier is a significant advantage that can come from losing weight. Even so, most doctors recommend other weight loss strategies before considering a bariatric procedure.
A less common method of treating apnea is a hyoid suspension. The hyoid is a U-shaped bone inside your neck, and it can restrict breathing in larger individuals when they lie down. Larger, in this instance, can mean a larger frame as well as larger from obesity. This bone can be surgically moved forward and suspended in place, which can keep the tongue and epiglottis from obstructing breathing.
If you have especially severe apnea, your doctor may recommend a maxillomandibular osteotomy and advancement, or MMO/MMA for short. It involves cutting your jaw bone and moving your lower and upper jaws forward. This procedure is often seen as a last resort, and it will involve wiring the jaws shut for a few days. Your diet will be limited for several weeks, and the jaw bone itself will take months to fully heal.
Only your doctor or a sleep professional can decide the procedure that's right for your individual needs. They'll take a look at your overall health and sleep patterns before making their decision, and they may not advise a surgical procedure without exploring other options first. Consult your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea and want to discuss treatment options.