Somnoplasty | Surgical Treatment For Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Snoring


During normal breathing, air passes through the throat on its way to the lungs.

The air travels past the tongue, soft palate, uvula, and tonsils.

The soft palate is the back of the roof of the mouth.

The uvula is the important anatomic structure hanging downward visibly at the back of the mouth (pharynx).

When a person is awake, the muscles in the back of the throat tighten to hold these structures in place preventing them from collapsing and/or vibrating in the airway.

During sleep, the uvula and soft palate frequently vibrate causing the distinctive sounds of snoring. Due to the blockage of airway, the sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and snoring results. Somnoplasty is performed using local anesthesia to treat upper-airway obstructions.

Disorders For Which Somnoplasty Can Be Used

Somnoplasty is FDA approved for use in the treatment of three conditions: habitual snoring (soft palate and uvula), chronic nasal obstruction (enlarged inferior turbinates) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS).

Somnoplasty is a unique surgical method for reducing habitual snoring by removing tissues of the uvula and soft palate. The Somnoplasty procedure for obstructive sleep apnea, which is performed under local anesthesia, treats sleep apnea by reducing the soft tissue in the upper airway including the base of tongue, the source of obstruction that is most difficult to treat.

Somnoplasty uses very low levels of radio frequency heat energy to create finely controlled localized burn-areas beneath the lining (mucosa) of the soft tissues of the throat.

The body, shrinking the tissue volume, opening the passageway for air, and thereby reducing symptoms of snoring, eventually resorbs these burn- areas. Somnoplasty is performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting and takes approximately 30 minutes.

Somnoplasty Treatment Process

Somnoplasty is performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting. The Somnoplasty procedure for obstructive sleep apnea generates heat at approximately 85° C (185° F) to create finely controlled coagulative lesions at precise locations within the upper airway.

An insulating sleeve at the base of the needle electrode is intended to protect the surface of the tissue from thermal damage, thereby minimizing post-operative discomfort.

The lesions created by the procedure are naturally restored in approximately three to eight weeks, reducing excess tissue volume and opening the airway. Typically, the Somnoplasty procedure for obstructive sleep apnea takes 30 to 45 minutes, with only five to 10 minutes required for RF energy delivery.

While people undergoing traditional surgery can undergo significant pain and take narcotic medications for several weeks, individuals undergoing Somnoplasty usually experience swelling and some discomfort, and take pain medications for two to three days.

Benefits of Somnoplasty:

  • Minimally invasive
  • Minimal post-operative uneasiness
  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Permanent reduction of airway obstruction
  • Office-based procedure

Somnoplasty has proven to be an excellent choice to relieve upper-airway obstructions with minimum intraoperative and postoperative pain.

In a recent study on habitual snoring, 9% of patients undergoing Somnoplasty needed sedative analgesics, as compared to 100% of patients undergoing laser assisted uvulo-palatoplasty (LAUP) and uvulo-palatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) upper-airway procedures.

Somnoplasty has also been shown to effectively reduce tongue-tissue volume for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. It is a viable and safe method for palate-tissue reduction for the treatment of habitual snoring.

And Somnoplasty has also proven effective in the improvement of nasal obstruction caused by turbinate hypertrophy.

Somnoplasty Complications

The following complications have been reported in the medical literature. It is here for your information only, not to frighten you, but to make you aware and better informed concerning this procedure.

Although many of these complications are rare, all have occurred, at one time or another, in the hands of experienced surgeons practicing the standards of community care.

  1. Extended pain, infection, bleeding, or impaired healing.
  2. Nasal regurgitation, a change in voice, or velopharyngeal insufficiency whereby liquids may flow into the nasal cavity during swallowing.
  3. Failure to cure sleep apnea or other pathological sleep disorders. Pathological sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, are medical problems, which may have associated serious complications. At this time, the Somnoplasty procedure has not been proven to cure these disorders.
  4. Thermal or electrical injury to the mucus membranes of the soft palate, uvula, or mouth. This may result in tissue loss by burn.
  5. Need for review, or further and more aggressive surgery.
  6. Failure to resolve or get rid off snoring. Most surgeons feel that about 80% of patients who undergo a Somnoplasty will have a significant or complete resolution in their snoring; and an additional percentage of patients will notice reduced levels of snoring such that their sleep partners will report that it's level is no longer offensive.


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