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Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Snoring

Surgery Overview

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure used to remove excess tissue in the throat to widen the airway. This sometimes can allow air to move through the throat more easily when you breathe, reducing snoring. The tissues removed may include:

  • The small finger-shaped piece of tissue (uvula) that hangs down from the back of the roof of the mouth into the throat.
  • Part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate).
  • Excess throat tissue, tonsils and adenoids, and the pharynx.

See pictures of the tonsils, adenoids, and uvula and the soft palate.

What To Expect After Surgery

It takes about 3 weeks to recover from surgery. It may be very difficult to swallow during this time. Because of this, only 60% of those having the surgery say they would undergo it again.1

Why It Is Done

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is sometimes used to treat snoring in people so that their bed partner can sleep better. It is rarely used and only considered in cases of very severe snoring when other treatments have failed. It may be used in people who:

  • Have excess tissue in the nose, mouth, or throat that blocks the airway.
  • Do not stop snoring after making lifestyle changes such as losing weight and sleeping on their sides.

How Well It Works

UPPP is often effective in reducing snoring initially. Over the long term, it cures snoring in 46% to 73% of those who have had this surgery.1

Risks

Complications during surgery include accidental damage to surrounding blood vessels or tissues.

Complications after surgery may include:

  • Sleepiness and periods when breathing stops (sleep apnea), both related to the medicine (anesthesia) that made you sleep during surgery.
  • Swelling, pain, infection, and bleeding.
  • A sore throat and trouble swallowing.
  • Drainage of secretions into the nose and a nasal quality to the voice. Speech may be affected by this surgery.
  • Narrowing of the airway in the nose and throat.

What To Think About

Surgery is rarely used to treat snoring. It may not completely cure snoring, and the risks of surgery may not be worth the small benefit you gain.

If you develop sleep apnea after having UPPP, diagnosis may be delayed because you do not snore. Snoring is the major symptom of sleep apnea.

Snoring is not always considered a medical problem, so insurance may not cover treatment.

Before considering surgery, all people who snore should try nonsurgical treatment.

Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty also may be used to treat snoring.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Kashima ML (2007). Selected disorders of the nose and throat: Epistaxis, snoring, anosmia, hoarseness, and hiccups. In NH Fiebach et al., eds., Principles of Ambulatory Medicine, 7th ed., pp. 1849–1864. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Last Revised January 20, 2012

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