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UPPP Uvuloplasty for Sleep Apnea at Our Los Angles Center

People often joke about snoring, but it’s no laughing matter — chronic snoring can be a sign of a serious condition called sleep apnea, where the soft tissues at the back of the throat or in other parts of the airway collapse during sleep, creating pauses in breathing. The condition has been linked in studies to everything from fatigue to decreased brain function to increased risk of coronary heart disease or liver disorders.

If you’re a chronic snorer, most doctors recommend starting with an overnight sleep study to determine if sleep apnea is to blame. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will likely try a series of non-invasive treatments, which could include medications, a weight loss regimen, wearing an oral appliance that shifts the lower jaw or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine when you sleep. But if these treatments fail to give you relief and your sleep apnea is severe, surgery may be able to help open up your airways and allow you to breathe easier — and snore a whole lot less.

How It Works

One of the most common surgical interventions for sleep apnea is the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP — a laser-assisted uvuloplasty — that removes the soft tissues from the back of the throat, including the uvula, tonsils, adenoids and pharynx, in order to help open up your airways. Depending on your particular anatomy, your surgeon may also recommend removing part of the roof of the mouth or the base of the tongue as well. This section of the throat is the most common point of airway obstruction in sleep apnea — but while it’s the likely culprit, there could be other areas that contribute to your snoring.

Recovery

For a surgery as extensive as the UPPP, general anesthesia is used, and you should expect an overnight stay in the hospital. The recovery period usually takes about three weeks. During your recovery from your uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, you may have a sore throat and a tough time swallowing; you may develop swelling at the surgical site that could actually narrow the airway (at least temporarily) and you may have excessive drainage into the back of the throat. Some patients experience throat infections after the surgery, but taking antibiotics right before the surgery can help minimize the risk of developing an infection.

Many patients who undergo UPPP find that their snoring improves significantly, at least in the short term; there are few longer-term studies of the procedure, but those that exist suggest that more than half of patients who undergo a UPPP found that it cures their snoring.

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