Reasons not to undergo sleep apnea surgery

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Reasons not to undergo sleep apnea surgery

To many patients with Obstructive sleep apnea, Surgery is the most attractive option. You may take it as a one-time procedure as compared to night after night wearing of a bulky continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine to bed.

But, ask those who underwent a surgery for sleep apnea before, they will never ever advice you to go with the same. Remember, you may not like CPAP but it is definitely something, which always work. On the other hand, Surgery for sleep apnea treatment has about 30 to 40% success rate and the patients with severe cases of sleep apnea are less likely to eliminate their symptoms completely.

Here is why you should take another look at your options for sleep apnea treatment prior to undergoing an often painful and risky surgical procedure that do not guarantee results.

1. It has Low Success Rates

The estimated average success rate for sleep apnea surgeries is about 40%, which means out of 100 who have opted for surgery for their sleep apnea treatment, only 40 people were able to improve their AHI scores (Apnea Hyponea Index score used to indicate the severity of sleep apnea) to a 50% drop from the original score. For example, if your AHI is 50, a successful surgery for sleep apnea treatment will drop it to 25 i.e. from severe OSA to moderate OSA. Unfortunately, you still need to use some other treatment for sleep apnea, probably CPAP to correct your condition completely.

Some surgeries, like tracheostomy have comparatively greater rate of success, with more than 50% drop in AHI score and other surgeries like Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), with less than 50% drop have lower rate of success. Moreover, while considering a surgery you must accept the fact that everyone is not same, and different people have different anatomy that requires different types of surgeries for their sleep apnea treatment. A person who has the right anatomy might increase his success rate to 80% with UPPP where others may fail.

Few other factors that may contribute to the low success rate of sleep apnea surgeries are:

a. Your nose is stuffy

The more stuffy your nose is, the less likely your throat surgery will help. However, this concept applies not only to surgery but also to CPAP and dental appliances.

b. You’re severely overweight

Studies have shown that the more overweight you are, the less likely any surgery in a treatment for sleep apnea will work for you. In fact, before considering surgery, the patient should think about losing weight as that would lower the severity of their sleep apnea to one level (severe to moderate and moderate to mild). The logic is once you lose weight, you can become a better candidate for surgical sleep apnea treatment.

c. You have severe OSA

If you have very severe obstructive sleep apnea, you are less likely to respond to sleep apnea surgery. One might notice sudden improvement in his/her sleep after surgery, but no matter what; symptoms of sleep apnea will come back soon.

2. Surgery can lead to severe complications

Surgical treatment for sleep apnea involves modification of the airways and other problem areas including the nose, palate, jaw, tongue, neck etc, hence there is always a risk for complications. Surgery should be considered after all the risks, benefits and alternatives to it are understood. It is believed that CPAP, if tolerated can control most Sleep apnea and it will be better than any surgical approach.

Moreover, after surgeries like UPPP, patients cannot use the CPAP therapy because of the leakage of air through the nose or mouth. Moreover, surgeries that claim to be an effective treatment for sleep apnea also have the risk of bleeding, airway issues and allergic reactions.

3. It can result in Severe Pain

Most surgeries performed as a treatment for sleep apnea require time off from work to heal and some are painful for up to 2-3 weeks. For example, Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) requires an overnight stay in the hospital and its recovery can further take 2 painful weeks.

4. The problem can reappear after couple of years

Remember that some surgeries only lowers your apnea hypopnea index, they do not eliminate it completely. Thus, there are high chances that the problem can reappear after couple of years. If you are left with mild apnea after surgical treatment for sleep apnea, it may become severe after few years, if left untreated.

5. You will still need other therapies for support

Even after investing a huge amount on the sleep apnea surgery, you may still need therapies like CPAP or dental devices to maintain its severity to low.

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