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Robotic Surgery

Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp. 

What Can Untreated Sleep Apnea Lead To?

Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration. Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms. 

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. At the WK Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Institute, our surgeons offer consultation and treatment options. In addition to a detailed history, our surgeons will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With cephalometric (skull x-ray) analysis, the surgeons can ascertain the level of obstruction. Sometimes a nasopharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight. 

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. One of the surgical options is an uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP), which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. A similar procedure is sometimes done with the assistance of a laser and is called a laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP). In other cases, a radio-frequency probe is utilized to tighten the soft palate. These procedures are usually performed in the operating room utilizing the da Vinci Robotic Si System, a minimally invasive surgical modality that is available at all of our affiliated hospitals. In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery). This procedure is also done in the hospital under general anesthesia and requires a one to two day overnight stay in the hospital. 

OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.