Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Surgery Overview

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a type of surgery. It removes a small piece of tissue that hangs in the back of your throat. This is your uvula. After this tissue is removed, air may move through your throat better when you breathe.

This surgery may be used to treat sleep apnea that has not been helped by other treatments. Sleep apnea happens when your throat is narrow or blocked by tissue. It can make you regularly stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer when you sleep.

You will be asleep during surgery. The doctor takes out your uvula and may also take out the tonsils and part of the soft palate. The soft palate is the back part of the roof of your mouth.

After surgery, you may snore less. But not all snoring will stop. This surgery does not fix snoring that happens when the tongue relaxes. So you may still need to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is a breathing device you wear when you sleep. It prevents your airway from closing. This helps you breathe more easily.

You will probably go home the day after surgery. In about 1 to 2 weeks, you can probably go back to work or most of your usual activities. But you may need 3 to 6 weeks to fully recover.

How Well It Works

UPPP may reduce sleep apnea in some people, but results are mixed

UPPP often works to reduce snoring at first. Over the long term, it cures snoring in 46% to 73% of those who have had this surgery.footnote 1, footnote 2 But apnea episodes may continue.

Even if surgery removes the blockage, you may still need CPAP after surgery.

Risks

Complications during surgery include accidental damage to surrounding blood vessels or tissues.

Complications after surgery may include:

  • A sore throat and problems swallowing.
  • Speech problems. The surgery may result in a nasal quality to the voice.
  • Changes in how food tastes.
  • Swelling, pain, infection, or bleeding.
  • Narrowing of the airway in the nose and throat.
  • Sleepiness and periods of not breathing (apnea) related to the medicines that are used to relieve pain and help you sleep.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Sundaram S, et al. (2005). Surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
  2. Caples SM, et al. (2010). Surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep, 33(10): 1396–1407.

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This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.