What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. It involves repeated episodes of breathing pauses during sleep, which can lead to life-threatening consequences. Undiagnosed sleep apnea increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heartbeat, and decreased libido. It can also cause daytime drowsiness, which can result in accidents, decreased productivity, and problems in relationships. The symptoms of sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, including gasping, choking, restless sleep, memory loss, problems with mental function, morning headaches, and frequent bathroom trips at night.
Sleep apnea is a fairly common condition, affecting 1 in 5 adults with at least mild sleep apnea and 1 in 15 adults with at least moderate sleep apnea. The obstruction of the upper airway during sleep is typically caused by large tonsils or excess tissue, a large tongue, relaxed and collapsed airway muscles, nasal passages, or the position of the jaw. As a result, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are necessary to avoid serious health risks.
Our non-surgical treatments for sleep apnea involve creating insertable oral appliances. Oral appliances are custom-molded devices that are worn in the mouth at night to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring. The appliances work by gently moving the lower jaw forward, which in turn helps to increase the size of the upper airway and reduce air resistance during breathing. While not as effective as continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP) systems, oral appliances are a good option for patients with mild to moderate OSA who prefer them, do not respond well to C-PAP, or are not suitable candidates for C-PAP treatment. Regular follow-up visits are necessary to ensure that the appliance is working properly and that symptoms are not worsening.
In severe cases of sleep apnea, surgery may be the only option. Surgical intervention can make an enormous difference for sleep apnea patients.
Every single patient has a slightly different shaped nose and throat. Because of this, we’ll need to measure your airway at several points to check for abnormal airflow from the nose to the lungs. After we have identified these abnormalities, we will proceed with a surgical plan of action.
Our surgical procedures include:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgical procedure that may be helpful if the airway collapses at the soft palate. It is usually performed on patients who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP). The procedure involves shortening and stiffening the soft palate by partially removing the uvula and reducing the edge of the soft palate.
- Hyoid Suspension: Hyoid Suspension is a surgical procedure that may be indicated if collapse occurs at the tongue base. The procedure involves securing the hyoid bone to the thyroid cartilage to stabilize this region of the airway.
- Genioglossus Advancement: Genioglossus Advancement (GGA) is a surgical procedure designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea by opening the upper breathing passage. The procedure tightens the front tongue tendon, reducing the degree of tongue displacement into the throat. GGA is often performed with at least one other procedure, such as UPPP or hyoid suspension.
- Maxillomandibular Advancement: Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA) is a surgical procedure that moves the upper and lower jaws forward, opening the upper airway. The bones and soft tissues of the tongue and palate are also moved forward. In some cases, MMA is the only technique that can create the necessary air passageway to resolve OSA.