Excessive soft palate tissue is a frequent cause of airway obstruction in obstructive sleep apnea. The most common procedure to treat the soft palate is a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a procedure in which tissue from the palate and/or the back of the throat is removed to increase airway size. However, there are potential significant complications, such as foreign body sensation — a feeling that something is in the back of the throat while swallowing — and velopharyngeal insufficiency — liquids or food escape into the nose while drinking or eating.
Pharyngoplasty is a significantly less invasive procedure that also achieves improvement of the airway. In this procedure, a minimal amount of tissue is removed as compared to uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or uvolopalatal flap. Tonsillectomy is routinely performed in pharyngoplasty and airway improvement results from tissue rearrangement by suturing the tissue laterally and superiorly.
This procedure is performed in a hospital surgery center under general anesthesia.
This procedure takes approximately one hour. Overnight hospitalization is usually recommended afterward, and in general the patient can usually return to work in 10 to 14 days.
Since minimal tissue is removed during pharyngoplasty, it is associated with less pain and complications than uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or uvulopalatal flap. However, post-operative pain can still be significant, especially when combined with a tonsillectomy. Bleeding represents another potential but uncommon complication.
This procedure is often performed in conjunction with nasal surgery, genioglossus advancement or radiofrequency reduction of the tongue in order to maximize airway improvement.
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