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What Types Of Surgical Procedures Are Performed To Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

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Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles of the back of the throat relax and cause the airway to become narrow or closed off while sleeping. This causes the person to stop breathing frequently during sleep and may prevent them from resting properly due to waking up often.

For some people, obstructive sleep apnea can be treated with medications, wearing a machine at night that produces air pressure that prevents the airway from closing or by wearing an oral appliance that keeps their tongue in the right position for breathing correctly while sleeping.

However, for those who have more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea, surgery may be the only option. These are the surgical procedures that are commonly used to treat sleep apnea.

Tissue Removal 

One common surgical procedure used to treat sleep apnea involves removing excess tissue from the back of the throat and the top of the mouth. The tonsils and adenoids are often removed during this procedure as well. This leaves a more open path for air to flow through freely and prevents the muscle tissue from relaxing and blocking the airway.

Repositioning Of The Jaw 

Jaw repositioning is also performed to correct obstructive sleep apnea. This is done by surgically moving the jaws forward away from the rest of the face. The space behind the tongue and the soft palate is now enlarged and it is less likely that obstruction will occur again. 


If the patient suffers from extremely severe sleep apnea that may be life-threatening, it is often necessary to have a procedure known as a tracheostomy performed. When this is done, the surgeon makes an incision in the front of the neck where a plastic or metal tube is permanently inserted.

This new air passageway can be covered during the day when the patient is awake. However, it must remain uncovered at night to ensure the patient is able to breathe easily while sleeping.

There are many different causes of obstructive sleep apnea. These include obesity, heart failure, taking certain narcotic medications and other health conditions such as having Parkinson's Disease or suffering from a stroke. In most cases, a physician may attempt to use medications and other nonsurgical methods of treating sleep apnea first, as long as the condition is not life-threatening. If these nonsurgical methods do not help, surgical treatments normally make a huge improvement in the patient's ability to breathe easily while sleeping.