Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Nighttime symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air and difficulty staying asleep, while daytime symptoms include dry mouth, headache, excessive sleepiness, trouble concentrating and irritability. It’s important to seek treatment for sleep apnea right away, and for some this means getting surgery.
Types of Sleep Apnea Surgeries
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by the muscles near the throat collapsing into the airway, so the goal of surgery is to address these anatomical issues. Types of surgeries performed to treat OSA include:
- Tongue radiofrequency.
- Soft palate surgery.
- Hyoid suspension.
- Genioglossus advancement.
- Jaw advancement.
- Inferior turbinate reduction.
When Should I Consider Sleep Apnea Surgery?
In order to determine whether sleep apnea surgery is right for you, you’ll do a sleep study, try first-line treatments and then undergo certain tests.
The purpose of a sleep study is to diagnose sleep apnea and determine how severe it is. A sleep study may be conducted in a medical clinic or in your home.
Sleep studies determine where you fall on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). The AHI indicates how many times per night you experience paused breathing, divided by the number of hours you sleep in a night.
- Normal sleep: AHI of fewer than 5 episodes per hour.
- Mild sleep apnea: AHI of 5-14 episodes per hour.
- Moderate sleep apnea: AHI of 15-29 episodes per hour.
- Severe sleep apnea: AHI of 30 or more episodes per hour.
Typically, only severe cases of sleep apnea are treated with surgery, and only after other options have been exhausted.
First-Line Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Most cases of mild sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising more and quitting smoking. Moderate to severe sleep apnea is often treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or an oral appliance that prevents the tongue from blocking the throat or that advances the jaw.
Surgery is recommended only if these first-line options are ineffective.
To ensure your body is ready for surgery, a physician may order blood tests, an electrocardiogram (EKG) or other testing.
If you regularly snore and experience daytime drowsiness even while driving down Interstate 264, you may be experiencing sleep apnea. To schedule an appointment with a sleep expert, call Hampton Roads ENT today.