Numerous studies have concluded that laser treatment (also known as uvulopalatoplasty) is not a good treatment alternative for snoring.
This treatment is associated with short-term symptom improvement, but many people complain of the recurrence of snoring after around 2 years of surgery. The therapy does not address the root cause of snoring, that is, sleep apnea; in fact, it masks sleep apnea, which is dangerous. In many cases, the treatment is associated with side effects such as nasal reflux, pharyngeal narrowing, nasal voice, infection, and bleeding.
What is laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty?
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is a surgical procedure promoted to manage snoring. The surgeon removes parts of the soft tissue from the throat using a laser. These parts include the uvula and soft palate. The uvula is the teardrop-shaped piece of tissue that hangs down the back of your throat. It plays a role in speech and swallowing. The soft palate is the back of the roof of the mouth. Removal of these tissues opens the airway and is believed to cure snoring.
Snoring affects around 44% of men and 28% of women aged 30-60 years. In many cases, snoring is a marker for a disease called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a risk factor for high blood pressure, daytime sleepiness, stroke, and heart failure. Timely diagnoses and treatment of OSA are therefore essential.
Snoring occurs when the airway resists the flow of air while breathing. This vibrates the tissues in the throat. Snoring may be associated with
- Restless sleep.
- Night awakening.
- Morning fatigue.
- Daytime sleepiness.
- Hypoxemia (low levels of oxygen in the blood).
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is indicated in the following conditions:
What to expect before a laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty?
Before the laser surgery, you can expect the following things:
- The physician will take your and your bed partner’s detailed history.
- You or your bed partner will be requested to describe your snoring state and indicate the absence or presence of other sleep-related symptoms including:
- The physician will perform a complete examination of your nose, pharynx, and larynx.
- You may have to undergo specific tests.
What to expect during a laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty?
During the surgery, you can expect the following things:
You may get a local anesthetic before the procedure.
You will have to wear CO2 laser safety goggles.
The laser power setting would be 18-20 W in the continuous mode.
- You may have to take deep breaths and hold the breath for 15-20 seconds while the surgeon works in the back of the throat.
- After 15-20 seconds, you may be allowed to breathe freely.
- Holding the breath results in less palate movement and prevents you from inhaling the laser smoke.
- Take care not to swallow when holding your breath.
- The physician uses a focused laser beam to make a vertical trench on either side of the uvula.
- Next, the physician shortens the uvula by 60-90% by destroying the muscles.
- In the end, you will have to make a snorting sound to ensure the completion of palatal reduction.
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