Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgical procedure for the treatment of severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In UPPP, soft tissue on the back of the throat and soft palate (the uvula) is removed. The tonsils and possibly other excess tissue may also be removed, if present. The procedure increases the width of the airway at the throat opening, improves the opening ability by interrupting muscular action, and “squares off” the palate to enhance its movement and closure. UPPP does not address apnea or snoring caused by obstructions at the base of tongue.
Surgeons usually use either conventional scalpel techniques or newer laser methods (LAUP, or Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty). LAUP may have a higher rate of success than UPPP, but it also requires the expertise of a surgeon highly skilled in laser procedures. Either way, UPPP generally requires three to five separate treatments, as only a small amount of tissue may be removed at a time. UPPP is an invasive procedure that typically requires general anesthesia and an overnight hospital stay.
Nationwide, UPPP and LAUP are approximately 50% to 65% effective in treating sleep apnea. In the hands of the highly qualified surgeons at Columbia Presbyterian, LAUP is about 85% effective in muting snoring and 65% effective in improving apnea. If habitual snoring is caused by obstructions at the back of the throat, UPPP and LAUP also reduce this problem in treated patients.
Adverse effects of UPPP include::
Dr. Jeffrey Ahn is among the first U.S. surgeons to use the harmonic scalpel, a new and less traumatic surgical method, to perform UPPP. In contrast to other techniques, the harmonic scalpel uses high-speed, precisely targeted sound waves to shrink the tissue.
UPPP with harmonic scalpel produces far less post-operative pain than conventional UPPP and LAUP. According to Dr. Ahn, this innovation makes UPPP available to many apneic patients who had previously avoided surgery because of the severe post-operative pain associated with the other techniques.
Read about Somnoplasty for Obstructive Sleep Apnea