What To Expect When You Have Surgery For Your Sleep Apnea
There are different treatment options your doctor can try when you're diagnosed with sleep apnea. If you're overweight, your condition may respond to losing weight. You might need to wear a breathing apparatus when you sleep to keep your airway open. It's possible you could even need surgery to remove excess tissue and make your airway wider. Sleep apnea surgery is called an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP. Here is a little more information about the procedure.
When UPPP Is Indicated
Your doctor will probably try other ways of treating your sleep apnea first, such as weight loss or wearing a CPAP mask at night while you sleep. When these treatments aren't effective, or if you can't lose weight or tolerate wearing a mask all night, then surgery might be the only other option. Another reason your doctor may decide surgery is the best option is if you have an abnormality in your airway such as a wide tongue base or big tonsils. Any tissue that obstructs your airway can lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Removing the tissue reduces the risk of your airway becoming blocked at night when your airway muscles relax.
How An Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty Is Done
Your ENT specialist will remove the tissues that cause your problem such as your uvula, tonsils, adenoids, soft palate, or throat tissue. You may even need to have part of your tongue removed. You'll probably need to have an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty done at a hospital as an inpatient with an overnight stay. Your doctor needs to monitor your progress after removing the tissues in your airway. However, if the surgery is done with an electric scalpel, there shouldn't be much bleeding to worry about since the cuts are sealed as they are made. Still, since you may develop swelling that interferes with your breathing, a hospital stay is generally recommended.
You'll be put to sleep with a general anesthetic, so you won't have any discomfort until you wake up from the surgery. Once all the medication wears off, you'll probably have a sore throat for a few days.
What To Expect After Having The Sleep Apnea Procedure
Your throat will be sore for a few days, so you should plan on eating a soft diet. Your doctor may give you an anesthetic spray to help with the pain, but you may not be able to take pain pills or sleeping pills after having a UPPP. Your doctor will probably want to wait to be sure your sleep apnea is under control before you take those medications. The surgery removes excess tissue so you probably won't snore any longer, but it may not be a complete cure for your sleep apnea. If you become overly relaxed by taking medications, you could still have bouts of apnea, but not know it since you don't snore.
You'll need to avoid strenuous activity until your surgery has healed, but you will need to move around each day and stay mobile. You should sleep with your head elevated during your recovery period, and your doctor may advise you to apply a heating pad or ice pack to your neck to help with pain or swelling.
If you used a CPAP machine before your sleep apnea procedure, your doctor may want you to continue using it until you can have a sleep study done to determine if the surgery stopped your episodes of apnea.