You’re not alone. Surgery for sleep apnea and snoring is a rapidly growing area. In the past, however, surgery did not have a strong reputation because the techniques used were both painful and only moderately successful. These days, due to new techniques, surgery has moved to the forefront of treatment, especially since many of the less invasive methods of apnea therapy are difficult for patients to adhere to.

What’s the ruckus?

Vibration and collapse of tissues at the back of the throat, including tonsils, palate and tongue, cause both snoring and sleep apnea. The loud and annoying sound of snoring comes mostly from the soft palate and uvula. Surgery can be done to either stiffen the palate (by placing small implants) or reconstruct it through various methods. The implant technique is minimally invasive, and works reasonably well, but there is often some residual snoring left. The larger surgeries are more effective but also carry greater risks than simple implants.

"Everyone with apnea will snore— but not every snorer has sleep apnea."

Everyone with apnea will snore — but not every snorer has sleep apnea. If a snoring patient is found to also have sleep apnea, then palate surgery alone is rarely enough to treat the problem. Typically apneic patients also need their tonsils removed and the back of the tongue decreased in size. In some cases, the nasal passageway should be improved as well. These various procedures in combination are the core concept of multi-level surgery for sleep apnea.

Is surgery right for you?

Sleep on it Modern technology allows for these surgeries to be performed in a surprisingly less painful manner than might be expected. Although many patients with apnea want surgery not everyone is suitable for it, especially people with very severe cases or those who are substantially overweight.