Division of Sleep Disorder Surgery

Somnoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Somnoplasty procedure for obstructive sleep apnea, which is performed under local anesthesia, treats sleep apnea by shrinking soft tissue in the upper airway including the base of tongue, the source of obstruction that is most difficult to treat. Somnoplasty uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to provide a minimally invasive and less painful treatment of upper airway obstructions under local anesthesia.

During Somnoplasty, we use an automated RF control unit with temperature monitoring capabilities and a suite of proprietary, single-use, disposable surgical handpieces that deliver controlled thermal energy into targeted areas to reduce tissue volume and stiffen soft tissue.

How Somnoplasty Works

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 resorbed 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. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and after being monitored overnight, patients can return to their normal activities the following day. Typically, more than one treatment is necessary to achieve optimal results.

What should I expect during the Somnoplasty procedure?

Somnoplasty is performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting. In contrast to conventional surgery, during somnoplasty we are able to protect the delicate surface of the tissue, control the delivery of energy and maintain a constant, low temperature, features that result in far less post-operative discomfort. While people undergoing traditional surgery can suffer 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.

How effective is the Somnoplasty System in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea?

Initial clinical results showed that Somnoplasty effectively treated obstructive sleep apnea by shrinking the base of tongue -- the most difficult source of obstruction to treat --in moderately and severely affected patients. These results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation in September 1998, with data from 18 patients. Sophisticated testing and analysis following treatment with Somnoplasty indicated that patients experienced an average of 17 percent and as much as a 35 percent reduction in tongue tissue volume, a range that is comparable to conventional surgical techniques.

Who is a candidate for the Somnoplasty procedure for obstructive sleep apnea?

Somnoplasty can be an effective treatment for people with mild, moderate, or severe OSA due to obstruction at the base of the tongue. If you believe that you or a family member may have OSA, it is very important to be evaluated by a physician who can confirm the presence of obstructive sleep apnea (through an overnight sleep study) and identify the possible sites of airway obstruction. Upon evaluation, we can determine if Somnoplasty may be an appropriate therapy.


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