Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Robot May Improve Success of Sleep Apnea Surgery

Image courtesy of Penn Medicine.

Clinical trials are proceeding for a new variation that may improve the success rate of surgical treatment for sleep apnea. In the past, surgical treatment has been sought to help patients who were unable to get good treatment results from CPAP and other methods. However, the most common surgical technique, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), has a widely variable success rate. One explanation for the variation in success is that the base of the tongue is a significant contributor to the obstruction of the airway in some cases and without surgical alteration of the tongue, the airway remains restricted. Unfortunately, tongue surgery is challenging and difficult to accomplish.

Now, though, it is hoped that transoral robotic surgery (TORS) can be used in combination with traditional surgical techniques to improve the success rate of sleep apnea surgery. It is hoped that the TORS technique will overcome the challenges associated with tongue surgery, including the difficulty of performing surgical maneuvers in confined spaces, poor lighting and depth perception when using endoscopic instruments, and the need for external incisions.

Clinical trials have started all across the country. Obstructive sleep apnea patients are evaluated using MRIs and sleep endoscopy to determine whether their tongue is partly responsible for their obstructive sleep apnea. If so, then they are considered a candidate for TORS for sleep apnea.

Although robotic surgery is a worthwhile avenue to explore for improving the surgical technique for the treatment of sleep apnea, it is also important that we utilize all treatment avenues open to us. There are a number of oral appliances that work at least partly by lifting and repositioning the tongue, and these should be tried for patients who seem to have tongue positioning problems prior to seeking surgery.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, it is important that you find a successful sleep apnea treatment as soon as possible. To learn more about the full range of sleep apnea treatments, please contact a local sleep dentist today.

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posted by Dr. Candelaria at 3:19 PM