Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgical procedure to remove excess tissue in the throat in order to widen the airway, making it easier to breathe. It’s designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that can cause serious health problems over time.
UPPP involves removal of tissues that may include the uvula, soft palate, tonsils, adenoids and pharynx. In some instances, a small portion of the tongue may be removed as well.
If you suffer from snoring and sleep apnea due to excess tissue in the throat or mouth that causes blockages of the upper airway, are unable (or unwilling) to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – the preferred method for treating sleep apnea – or do not respond to CPAP treatment, you may be a candidate for UPPP.
During the procedure, the patient is given general anesthesia. The surgeon will remove the tonsils and adenoids (if applicable), excise the uvula and trim or remove the soft palate. The cuts are sutured together with stitches. A brief hospital stay may be recommended so the patient can be closely monitored immediately after surgery.
Complications may include sore throat, swelling, infection, bleeding, difficulty swallowing, speech problems or changes to the voice, sleepiness or apnea due to medications you’ll be given to promote healing, changes in the way food tastes and narrowing of the airway related to scar tissue.
As with other sleep disorder surgeries, UPPP is not a viable solution for everybody. It offers mixed results; some people report a drastic reduction in episodes of snoring and apnea, while others still require additional treatment (e.g. CPAP) afterwards. Your doctor can discuss the risks, and help you to decide whether UPPP is right for you.
Sleep is vital for good health. Experts recommend a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep per night for most adults; a lack of sleep can affect your hormone levels, mood, weight and work or school performance and may result in physical, mental, social and emotional problems. Reaching that goal is difficult for many, thanks to the growing prevalence of sleep disorders.
What’s a Sleep Disorder?
Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent you from sleeping well on a regular basis. They are very common, affecting an estimated 75 percent of Americans on a regular basis. There are more than 100 different types of sleep disorders; the most common are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
- Central sleep apnea (CSA).
- Parasomnia (abnormal movements and behavior during sleep).
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
- Restless leg syndrome.
- Circadian rhythm disorders.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of sleep disorder and how severe its impact. A majority of patients report difficulty falling or staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of concentration, memory loss, and depression.
Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder that affects one in 15 Americans, with most cases undiagnosed. It occurs when a person experiences one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while asleep. These pauses can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Generally, breathing begins again and is sometimes accompanied by snorting or choking.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosing and treating a sleep disorder is important in preventing more serious health problems from occurring. Most patients will need to undergo a polysomnography (sleep study), conducted in a sleep lab or at home. Other tests, such as an electroencephalogram and genetic blood testing, can be useful in a diagnosis.
With such a large number of recognized sleep disorders, there are many different causes. These include allergies and colds, chronic diseases, pain, stress and anxiety, work schedule and more. Treatment depends on the condition itself, but typically involves a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. Surgery may be an option for certain breathing-related disorders, such as snoring or OSA.