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You will have a smaller airway if you have snoring or sleep apnea compared to other individuals without sleep apnea. Since the cause of snoring or sleep apnea is obstruction of upper airways during sleep, surgery involves removing soft tissues to enlarge the airways or to expand the jaw structures that are restricting it.
Additionally, surgery reduces the laxity of the upper airway to reduce the obstruction. As the severity of obstruction and airway pattern vary greatly between individuals, the surgical procedure success rate also varies.
Different surgical procedures have been developed to treat the obstruction of airways that cause sleep apnea and snoring. The different surgical procedures for sleep apnea are nasal surgery, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, genioglossus advancement, tracheotomy, maxillomandibular advancement and radio frequency.
The surgical procedure that can achieve significant response rate is maxillomandibular advancement. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is the surgery intended to enlarge the airway by removing the tonsils and adenoids, as well as part of the soft palate or roof of the mouth.
Tracheotomy is the procedure that creates hole in the trachea or windpipe below the site of obstructions. The hole is plugged during the day for normal breathing and unplugged during sleep, so obstructions are bypassed.
Radio frequency or somnoplasty is a surgical procedure that is used to shrink the size of the tongue and palate. Multiple treatments are often necessary and can be performed with other therapies.
There are non-surgical treatments for sleep apnea, but may not be as effective or as long term as surgery. The common non-surgical procedure for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses the air pressure to hold the tissues open during sleep. It delivers the air through the nasal mask or face mask under pressure.
As you breathe, the pressure holds the nose, palate, and throat tissues open. You can feel the pressure and breathe easily. This non-surgical treatment is used if you have mild to moderate sleep apnea. For severe condition, surgery is preferred as it will provide long term solution.