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This surgery for sleep apnea is designed to enlarge the airspace in the oropharynx, which is the opening at the back of the mouth leading into the throat.
Evidence on How It Works
In a study done in 1985, shortly after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty was introduced, 66 patients were given the surgery. 85% experienced an improvement in daytime sleepiness, and 98% experienced reduced snoring.
The greatest indicator for a favorable result was body weight. Subjects who weighed more than 125% of their ideal body weight had greater success after the surgery, and even lost weight an average of 13 pounds after the surgery. Subjects who were closer to their ideal body weight were less responsive to surgery.
Though the condition was not entirely eliminated in any of the subjects, number of nighttime incidents went down, and daytime sleepiness improved.1
Side Effects and Warnings
During the recovery period, some patients have experienced regurgitation through the nose. Other than that side effect, this is a relatively safe surgery for sleep apnea, with little postoperative bleeding and no voice change or speech impairment.
1Conway, W. A., Slcklesteel, J. M., Wittig, R. M., Fujita, S., Zorick, F. J., Roehrs, T. A. and Roth, T. (1985), Evaluation of the effectiveness of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. The Laryngoscope, 95: 70–74. doi: 10.1288/00005537-198501000-00017