Sleep apnea surgery

Surgery is sometimes recommended, usually by ear, nose, and throat specialists, for severe obstructive sleep apnea. Patients should seek a second opinion from a sleep disorders specialist if surgery is recommended as a treatment for OSA. Various surgical procedures may be recommended for very severe cases of OSA, but there is limited evidence for their effectiveness.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

UPPP removes soft tissue on the back of the throat including all or part of the uvula (the soft flap of tissue that hangs down at the back of the mouth), parts of the soft palate and the throat tissue behind it. If tonsils and adenoids are present, they are removed. The surgery typically requires a stay in the hospital.

The Goal of UPPP Surgery

  • Increase the width of the airway at the throat’s opening
  • Block some of the muscle action in order to improve the ability of the airway to remain open
  • Improve the movement and closure of the soft palate

Success rates for sleep apnea surgery are rarely higher than 65% and often deteriorate with time, averaging about 50% or less over the long term. Many or most patients with moderate or severe sleep apnea will likely still require CPAP treatment after surgery and many surgeons no longer perform this procedure as a result of poor success rates.

RHS works closely with a variety of ENT surgeons throughout Canada and may be able to provide a recommendation.