Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure that removes excess
tissue in the throat to make the airway wider. This sometimes can allow air to
move through the throat more easily when you breathe, reducing the severity of
sleep apnea (OSA). The tissues that are removed may
If an enlarged tongue is a factor in your sleep apnea, the surgeon
may remove a small part of the tongue. This is called an
You may need
continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP)
therapy after surgery. CPAP therapy uses a breathing device that you wear at
night that helps you breathe more easily and prevents your airway from closing
Some pain medicines can relax the throat muscles. You may have to
avoid these medicines after surgery to make it less likely that your airways
will narrow and cause apnea episodes.
Your doctor may suggest UPPP if you:
Children usually do not have UPPP. For them, removing the tonsils
and adenoids usually cures sleep apnea.
UPPP may reduce sleep apnea in some people, but results are mixed.1, 2
UPPP may stop snoring, but apnea episodes may continue.
Even if surgery successfully removes the blockage, you may still
need CPAP after surgery.
Complications during surgery include accidental damage to
surrounding blood vessels or tissues.
Complications after surgery may include:
Before considering surgery, you should try CPAP.
You will need a
sleep study after UPPP surgery to find out if your
sleep apnea has improved. If you still stop breathing at night, you may still
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is sometimes used to
treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, although not all people
benefit. This procedure is not recommended by the American Academy of Sleep
Medicine to treat sleep apnea.3
People who are
obese or who have some other illnesses are more likely
to have complications after UPPP.4
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Sundaram S, et al. (2005).
Surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea in adults.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
Caples SM, et al. (2010). Surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep, 33(10): 1396–1407.
Aurora RN, et al. (2010). Practice parameters for the surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Sleep, 33(10): 1408–1413.
Kezirian EJ, et al. (2006). Risk factors for serious
complication after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 132(10): 1091–1098.
June 25, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
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