Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time during sleep. People with sleep apnea experience poor sleep quality since they wake up during these episodes to catch their breath, though most don’t remember doing so. For severe cases of sleep apnea that don’t respond to other treatments, surgery may be recommended.
Types of Surgeries
Most commonly, the goals of sleep apnea are to reduce or eliminate symptoms of sleep apnea, or to improve tolerance of positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy or oral appliances.
Since sleep apnea is usually caused by anatomical issues, like muscles near the throat collapsing into the airway, surgery targets these areas. Possible surgeries that may be performed to improve sleep apnea include:
- Tongue radiofrequency
- Soft palate surgery
- Hyoid suspension
- Genioglussus advancement
- Jaw advancement
- Inferior turbinate reduction
When Sleep Apnea Surgery Should Be Considered
There are several steps involved when considering whether sleep apnea surgery is right for you.
The first step is to undergo a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea and determine the severity. Sleep studies can be performed in a clinic or in the comfort of your own home.
A sleep study will tell you where you fall on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). The AHI tells you the number of times you experience an episode in one night, divided by the total hours of sleep.
- Normal sleep: AHI of fewer than 5 episodes per hour.
- Mild sleep apnea: AHI of 5-14 episodes per hour.
- Moderate sleep apnea: AHI of 15-29 episodes per hour.
- Severe sleep apnea: AHI of 30 or more episodes per hour.
In general, only severe cases of sleep apnea require surgery, but only if other options are exhausted first.
While mild sleep apnea can usually be treated with lifestyle modifications – like losing weight, exercising and quitting smoking – moderate to severe sleep apnea typically requires use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. In some cases, an oral appliance that prevents the tongue from blocking the throat or that advances the jaw can help with symptoms.
If these options do not provide relief, surgery may be recommended.
Before recommending surgery, a sleep doctor may order a blood test, an electrocardiogram (EKG) or other testing to ensure you can safely undergo surgery.
If you snore and experience daytime drowsiness while watching your children play at Kelley Park, you may be experiencing sleep apnea. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Camino Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic today.