Sleep Apnea

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

Recurring cycles of reduced oxygenation result in very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals are afflicted by increased daytime drowsiness, depression, and lack of focus.

Some people have obstructions that are more gentle called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.

The initial step in fixing it resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate examination. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons offer consultation and treatments.

Going over your detailed history, the doctors will assess the anatomic relationships within the maxillofacial region. With cephalometic (skull x-ray) analysis, the doctors can determine the level of blockage. A nasopharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To verify the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study might be recommended to monitor a person overnight.

There are many treatment options offered. An initial treatment may contain utilizing a nasal CPAP machine that gives pressurized oxygen via a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night.

Among the surgical options is uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP) that is performed at the back of the soft palate and throat. An identical procedure is sometimes done with the help of a laser and it is known as a laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP). In other cases, a radio-frequency probe is required to tighten up the soft palate. These procedures usually performed under light IV sedation in the office.

In more complex cases, the bones from the upper and lower jaw might be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery). This process is done within the hospital under general anesthesia as well as a 1 to two day overnight stay in the hospital.

OSA is an extremely serious condition that requires attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.