What Is Uvulopalatoplasty? Snoring Surgery

Medically Reviewed on 6/2/2022
What Is Uvulopalatoplasty
Uvulopalatoplasty can widen the airways and reduce snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea

Uvulopalatoplasty is the surgical removal of the uvula that is done to treat snoring or relieve symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Why is uvulopalatoplasty done?

During normal breathing, air travels down the throat and past the tongue, soft palate, uvula, and tonsils on its way to the lungs. The soft palate is the back of the roof of the mouth, and the uvula is the soft tissue structure that dangles visibly at the back of the mouth.

When you are awake, the muscles in your throat tighten to hold these structures in place, preventing them from collapsing and/or vibrating in the airway. However, when you are sleeping, the uvula and soft palate frequently vibrate, producing the distinctive sounds of snoring

Removing the uvula helps widen the airways and reduce the vibration that occurs when air passes through the tissues of the mouth.

How is uvulopalatoplasty done?

The procedure is performed under local anesthesia and takes about 20-30 minutes. Based on the anatomic findings, excision or modification of the uvula is done. 

In many cases, the surgery is performed in combination with other snoring treatments for best results.

What are different types of uvulopalatoplasty?

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: This procedure is often performed in patients with sleep apnea and rarely in patients with excessive snoring. The procedure involves the removal of excess tissue from the back of the mouth and throat. The tonsils and adenoids, if present, may also be taken out in this procedure. This widens the opening of the airways and improves the movement and closure of the soft palate.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): This is a noninvasive surgical procedure that involves using lasers to reduce the size of an enlarged or elongated uvula. It is performed under local anesthesia and takes approximately 30 minutes. This treatment also widens the airways and can relieve symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Cautery-assisted uvulopalatoplasty: This procedure is used to treat simple snoring or some cases of obstructive sleep apnea and is less invasive than LAUP. Cautery-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is a combination of tissue removal and tightening. The procedure aims to increase the size of the airway without compromising normal functions such as breathing, speaking, and swallowing.

What are the risks and complications of uvulopalatoplasty?

Risks and complications that may be associated with the surgery include:

  • Severe postoperative pain, mostly seen in laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty
  • Severe bleeding
  • Sore throat for 7-10 days
  • Nasal regurgitation
  • Dehydration
  • Permanent change in the quality of voice
  • Recurrence of primary snoring

What post-operative care should be taken after the surgery?

You can use pain medications as prescribed for throat discomfort, which occurs mostly when swallowing. 

Speech is usually not affected during the procedure, and you can resume normal activities the same day as the procedure.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/2/2022
Image Source: iStock Image