Your Guide to Sleep Apnea Surgery
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine. This machine keeps your airway open by blowing pressurized air into your nose through a mask. Some people are satisfied with the results they see from using the CPAP prescribed by their doctor.
However, the CPAP is designed to help you manage sleep apnea instead of actually treating the underlying cause. While it can be effective for helping patients breathe better at night, the CPAP doesn’t always work long term. Part of this is because many patients find them uncomfortable and hard to use. In fact, some studies show that 50% of CPAP patients won’t use their machines long-term. Even patients who are able to use their CPAP for a long period of time will very rarely be able to sleep without it.
Sleep apnea surgery may be the best permanent solution for patients who are not seeing results or just can’t adjust to the CPAP machine. The goal of all of sleep apnea surgery is to open up the airway permanently so you can breathe easier at night.
Deciding to get any type of surgery is a major step. There are many things that you need to discuss with your doctor before moving forward. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to sleep apnea surgery. Our goal here is to give you all the information you need to make the best decision for your health.
On this page we will talk about:
Should I Get Surgery for My Sleep Apnea?
You might want to know why surgery is a better option than the CPAP. A lot of patients wonder whether or not surgery can actually eliminate their need for the CPAP machine.
The answer depends on several factors. First of all, the success of the surgery will depend on the cause of your sleep apnea and the type of procedure you need. In many cases, surgery will completely remove the obstruction and permanently open your airway. However, some patients will need to pair surgery with other treatments like CPAP in order to sleep better. Your overall health will also play a role in how successful any type of surgery is.
In general, most patients who choose to move forward with sleep apnea surgery will see major improvements in the quality of sleep they get. And many are able to completely eliminate their CPAP machine.
How Does Surgery Fix My Sleep Apnea?
The thing that sets sleep apnea surgery apart from more conservative treatments is that it addresses the root problem instead of just managing symptoms. When a doctor treats any kind of condition or illness the goal is to treat the underlying issues. If we don’t address the cause of your sleep apnea, we aren’t really treating it.
There are several different causes of sleep apnea. And they all have something to do with the anatomy of your airway. In some cases, there is excess tissue in the mouth or throat. Sometimes the cause of sleep apnea is an underdeveloped jaw. Other people have problems with their nose that causes their breathing to be interrupted.
Many of these causes can be fixed with surgery. Your jaw can be moved forward to make more room. The tissue on your throat and tongue can be removed. There are procedures that can be performed on your nose to make it easier for you to breathe at night.
In each of these cases, we are removing whatever is blocking your airway. And with this blockage gone, you can breathe better at night, without the help of a machine.
What Are the Risks and Benefits of Sleep Apnea Surgery?
Any surgical procedure comes with potential risks and complications. There is always a risk of infection, bleeding, and reactions to anesthsiea. However, these risks can be reduced.
Your surgeon will usually prescribe antibiotics to take after surgery in order to prevent infections. Washing your hands and keeping your surgical wound clean will also make the risk of infection less likely. In order to prevent bleeding it’s important to stop taking any NSAIDs, vitamins, or herbal supplements before surgery. All of these can increase your risk of bleeding. Be sure to tell your surgeon about any other medication you’re taking so they can advise you on whether or not it’ll be safe to take them.
Each type of sleep apnea surgery will come with its own specific complications, so be sure to talk to your surgeon about these ahead of time.
Benefits of Sleep Apnea Surgery
Because of the risks associated with untreated sleep apnea anything you can do to reduce the number of episodes you have every night will have massive benefits. By treating sleep apnea you allow yourself to get the sleep your body needs to function properly. You reduce the risk of getting in a car wreck or having accidents at work. You will also improve your quality of life because your increased energy.
The biggest benefit of sleep apnea surgery is that we get passed just managing symptoms. Conservative treatments like the CPAP will help you sleep better, but you become dependent on them. Because sleep apnea surgery treats the root of your problem, it is the only option that can permanently reduce the effect sleep apnea has on your life. Once they understand how much surgery can improve their lives, most patients are more than happy to move forward with surgery.
Types of Sleep Apnea Surgery
Your airway has several different parts that are meant to work together. When one part isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to breathing problems, including sleep apnea. There are different types of sleep apnea surgery that deal with different aspects of your airway. Some address issues with your nose or throat and others are meant to fix problems with your jaw and mouth. The right type of sleep apnea surgery depends on a thorough examination of your airway. By looking at your airway we can determine the exact cause of your OSA and work towards a cure.
Because different parts of your airway can contribute to OSA there are several different types of sleep apnea surgery. Each type addresses a different issue in a different area. Sleep apnea surgery can be performed by either an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon or an OMS (oral maxillofacial) surgeon.
Surgeries Peformed by an OMS
Other surgeries are performed by an oral maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), like the ones at PRECiDENT. An OMS will make adjustments to your jaw in order to make your airway wider. This in turn makes it easier to breathe when you lay down to sleep.
MMA Surgery for Sleep Apnea
The most common, and most successful procedure performed by an OMS is MMA (maxilomandibular advancement) surgery. MMA surgery addresses underdeveloped jaws, which are a common cause of sleep apnea. If your jaw didn’t grow properly when you were a child, it can create a smaller airway when you’re an adult. And when you lie down to sleep, your airway is obstructed, leading to sleep apnea.
During MMA surgery both your upper and lower jaw are moved forward.
MMA surgery is the most effective type of sleep apnea surgery, with a 90-95% success rate. We usually recommend MMA surgery for patients who are not able to tolerate the CPAP and who have underdeveloped jaws.
Surgeries Performed by an ENT
ENTs play an important role in treating sleep apnea. They primarily deal with problems that stem from your nose or throat. In fact, at PRECiDENT we often work with ENTs to make sure our patients get the help they need. ENTs perform several different types of surgery including uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and tongue surgery.
UPPP is one of the most common types of surgery for sleep apnea. During UPPP the surgeon will work to remove excess tissue from your throat. This tissue can fall back into your throat while you sleep. So, with UPPP the surgeon is able to cut this tissue away, which makes it easier for you to breathe.
Your surgeon will remove tissue from:
- Your uvula
- Parts of the soft palate
- Sides of your throat
Your tonsils and adenoids may also be removed during UPPP.
Tongue Surgery for Sleep Apnea
The size or placement of your tongue can also cause sleep apnea. If your tongue is too big or placed too far back in your mouth, it can fall back and block your airway when you lay down to sleep.
An ENT can adjust the size of your tongue through tongue reduction surgery. Your tongue can also be moved with tongue advancement surgery. The goal of both procedures is to make more room for your tongue, which opens up your airway, and can effectively treat sleep apnea.
How to Prepare and What to Expect for Sleep Apnea Surgery
Once you’ve decided to move forward with sleep apnea surgery you’ll want to know what you need to do to prepare and what to expect. Knowing how to prepare for sleep apnea surgery will help everything go smoothly during your procedure. And knowing what to expect will help you feel at ease with the whole process.
How to Prepare for Sleep Apnea Surgery
Before surgery, you should ask your doctor any questions you have about the procedure. Even if the question seems silly, getting answers will help put your mind at ease. You should take notes during these conversations so you have something to look back at later.
You should also make arrangements for anything you may need after surgery. Request time off work if you need it. Get any medication filled. Prepare any food if you’re going to need to go on a soft food diet. If your procedure requires anesthesia you’ll need a responsible adult to drive you home and stay with you at least for 24 hours. Getting all of this arranged before sleep apnea surgery will help you feel less stressed the day of your appointment.
Finally, you may need to make some lifestyle changes. The healthier you are before sleep apnea the better your procedure will go. So if you can eat healthily and lose a little weight you increase your chances of your surgery being effective.
You will also need to quit smoking and stop using NSAIDs, vitamins, or herbal supplements before sleep apnea surgery.
What to Expect During Sleep Apnea Surgery
Minor procedures will be performed in a procedure room in the clinic. Other more invasive surgeries, like MMA or UPPP, will be performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. You should wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes for your procedure. We also recommend not wearing jewelry, makeup, or contacts during sleep apnea surgery.
You will get an IV and anesthesia will be administered before surgery. Once you are asleep the surgeon will begin operating. The length of the procedure will vary. Most will last about 45 minutes, however, more invasive procedures can take several hours.
Depending on the procedure, you may be able to go home the same day. However, for procedures like MMA and UPPP you will need to be monitored overnight in the hospital. Recovery time for sleep apnea surgery will also depend on the procedure, but you should be able to return to normal shortly after you get home. After surgery, you will need to schedule follow-up appointments with your doctor to make sure the surgery was effective.
The Results of Sleep Apnea Surgery
Check out these sleep apnea surgery success stories.
Breathing Better Again
Heath Key’s Story.
Even when he knew he was getting 8 hours of sleep every night, Heath Key still experienced day time sleepiness. It seemed that no matter how much he slept he was still tired all day long. And it was affecting his performance at work. After talking to his doctor Heath found out that he had obstructive sleep apnea.
As he searched for solutions, he found PRECiDENT. The sleep apnea specialists at PRECiDENT helped Heath understand his options and he realized that sleep apnea surgery was the right choice. Sleep apnea surgery allowed Heath to breathe better and get the sleep he needed.
Sleep Apnea Surgery is Not Always Right for Everyone.
But it May be Right for You.
Sleep apnea surgery will treat the root cause of your sleep apnea. We often recommend patients consider sleep apnea surgery because it is the only way to permanently cure obstructive sleep apnea.
Deciding to move forward with any type of surgery is a big step. And we want to make sure you have all the information you need in order to make the right choice for your health. If you are ready to make that step, or if you need more information please reach out to us so we can get you moving down the right path.