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What is the Sleep Apnea Pillar Procedure?

If you are suffering from sleep apnea and looking for a more permanent solution than CPAP, one procedure you should consider is the sleep apnea pillar procedure. This procedure allows most people to completely stop using a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea and resolves most of the symptoms of mild to moderate sleep apnea, and in some cases can even be used to treat severe sleep apnea.

If you are considering undergoing the sleep apnea pillar procedure, then it is important that you familiarize yourself with the procedure, including how it is performed and what the typical results are in order to decide whether or not the pillar procedure is right for you.

The pillar procedure is generally considered one of the least invasive sleep apnea treatment procedures available and is a simple procedure which typically takes under an hour to perform and can be done in a sleep clinic or an outpatient center. 

The actual procedure involves placing between three and five small polyester rods (less than one inch long and 1/16 of an inch in diameter) or “pillars” in the soft palate tissue at the back of the mouth. As the tissue around the polyester rods heals, scar tissue begins to form which causes the soft palate to become harder and stiffer. 

This has the effect of reducing the vibrations in the soft palate that are responsible for the noise associated with snoring, while also keeping the soft palate from collapsing and blocking the air passage in the throat while sleeping, which is one of the main causes of sleep apnea and other general snoring problems.

sleep apnea pillar procedureYou will be awake throughout the entire procedure, but you will not feel anything as your mouth will be numbed using a local anesthetic. After the procedure is over and the anesthetic wears off, some patients report feeling slight discomfort but this usually goes away within a few days. 

Most patients are able to resume their normal activities the very same day, although it is recommended to eat only soft food and avoid hot drinks for a few days, and it may be necessary to take an over the counter pain medication for a few days. Nonetheless, you may have sore throat, slight swelling of the mouth, and difficulty swallowing for a few days or even a few weeks after the procedure.

Who Should Undergo the Sleep Apnea Pillar Procedure?

This type of sleep apnea treatment is typically performed on individuals who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, although in some cases it can effective at treating more severe forms of the sleeping disorder. 

However, it is not only used as a sleep apnea treatment, and many of the people who undergo this surgery merely suffer from excessive or extremely loud snoring which keeps their partner awake at night. Still, only an ear, nose, and throat doctor will be able to determine if the pillar procedure is right for you, so it is important to discuss all of the different treatment options available to you with an ENT or sleep specialist.

Typical Results of the Sleep Apnea Pillar Procedure

After undergoing the pillar procedure, your sleep apnea or snoring will not subside immediately, as it takes some time for the scar tissue to form and stiffen the soft palate. Still, most patients report a noticeable reduction in their snoring and other sleep apnea symptoms within a few days, although it may take between two and three months to see the full benefits of the procedure. 


The reason that this type of sleep apnea treatment has become so popular is because of the incredibly high success rate. In fact, this procedure is successful in reducing or completely eliminating sleep apnea and snoring in between 90 and 95 percent of the patients who have undergone the procedure, making it one of the most effective permanent sleep apnea treatment options currently available.


Risks Associated with the Pillar Procedure

sleep apnea pillar procedureGenerally speaking, this is one of the safest surgical procedures used to treat sleep apnea and there is very little risk of complications. In fact, there have never been any major adverse reactions to the procedure reported and less than 1% of the almost 50,000 people who have had the procedure done have reported any negative reaction. 

In the cases where a negative reaction was reported, it almost always involves a pillar where the tip begins to poke through the soft palate due to it being implanted either too deeply or too shallow.

In these cases your doctor can quickly and easily remove the offending pillar and re-implant it at the correct depth. Of course, as with any surgical procedure, there is a very small risk of infection, but this can almost always be avoided with proper care.

The actual rods are made of a specific type of woven polyester which are completely safe and have been used in surgical implant procedures for more than fifty plus years, without a single negative reaction. This makes the pillar procedure the safest sleep apnea surgical procedure that one can undergo.

Where to Get the Pillar Procedure Performed

sleep apnea pillar procedureIn general, most sleep and snoring clinics offer the pillar procedure as an option for treating sleep apnea. Most likely you will be able to find a sleep clinic in your area which offers this procedure among many other sleep apnea treatment options. 

Most of these clinics are privately run, but you also have the option to undergo this sleep apnea treatment procedure at many university medical centers as well.

Average Costs of the Pillar Procedure

The price of this procedure depends on your doctor and where the procedure is performed, but it generally costs around $1,500. However, it is important to note that snoring treatments are considering cosmetic procedures and will therefore not be covered by most insurance policies, meaning you will most likely have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

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