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Is UPPP Really the Right Option For You?

In cases of severe obstructive sleep apnea or when no other treatment methods work, a special type of sugery called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (or UPPP) is sometimes used as a last resort.

Many other people undergo uvulopalatopharyngoplasty after they finally become tired of using a CPAP machine night after night, as this option may be available to provide the permanent relief from obstructive sleep apnea that so many people are desperately seeking. If you are one of the millions of Americans that have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, UPPP may be just what you've been looking for.

The only thing you need to note is that most doctors will only recommend sleep apnea surgery as a very last resort. Surgery is expensive, involves lots of risk for complications, and is simply ineffective in some cases. So, before you decide to go under the knife, you should first look at all of the other non-surgical treatment options, such as anti-snoring devices, to see if one of them might make more sense.

What is Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty?

UPPP is a type of sleep apnea surgery that involves removing tissue from the throat that is obstructing the airway during sleep. The amount of tissue and which specific tissues are removed during the surgery depend entirely on the individual and what is causing their obstructions.

The tissues that may be removed during this surgery include the tonsils, uvula, soft palate (roof of the mouth), adenoids, and pharynx. In some cases it is determined that the patient has a larger than average tongue, part of it may also be removed along with the other tissues, and this procedure is known as an uvulopalatopharyngoglossoplasty.

upppBy removing these tissues, the airway should be widened and the obstructions should be minimized. Another goal of this procedure is to reduce the amount the muscles in the mouth can move, allowing the throat to stay open easier. 

Finally, it is also hoped that this surgery will allow the soft palate to move and close more freely. These three goals combined will thus hopefully have the effect of permanently treating obstructive sleep apnea. Still, not all surgeries are as effective and some people still have to use a CPAP machine even after surgery, especially in more severe cases.

What Can I Expect From The UPPP Procedure?

One of the first things most people want to know is what they can expect after they undergo UPPP.  When it comes down to the actual results and effectiveness of this sleep apnea surgery at relieving your sleep apnea, only your doctor will be able to give you an estimate of what to expect, as the results can vary dramatically from case to case. Nonetheless, most everyone should see at least some improvement. 

Even so, many ear, nose, and throat doctors and surgeons do not recommend this procedure except in extreme cases, such as when a tracheotomy may be the only other option. This is mostly due to the fairly low success rate (around 40% of patients have their sleep apnea totally cured) and high risk of complications. 

Still, despite this, thousands of people a year choose to undergo this surgery after deciding the risks are more than worth the chance of sleep apnea relief. When it comes to what to expect immediately following the procedure and during the recovery period, this is much easier to pinpoint. 

upppThe surgery is considered to be quite invasive and usually requires the patient spend at least two or three nights in the hospital, and it usually takes at least a few months before most people would consider themselves to be totally recovered and without any lingering effects.

You probably won't be able to eat solid foods for a time, and even after you can, you will still have difficulty swallowing for weeks. You should also expect to have a quite sore throat and mouth, especially when talking for several weeks as well. 

In most cases, the surgery shouldn't affect your voice in any way, that is, as long as you speak English.  Removing the uvula causes people who speak French, and other languages which use what is termed a "uvular R," to lose the ability to speak properly, as it just isn't popular to say the uvular R without a uvula. 

Risks Associated with UPPP

As stated earlier, many doctors and surgeons are wary to recommend or perform this procedure due to the high risk of complications, of which most are much more serious than simply losing the ability to speak French properly.

More and more people who have undergone this procedure are starting to report back about the negative effects it has had on them, and the internet is packed full of these horror stories. While the majority of people will most likely not experience any of these damaging complications, it's still a good idea to be aware of the risks of any surgical procedure before deciding to undergo it.

One of the biggest risks is that the removal of these tissues will cause excess scar tissue to form after the surgery, and this scar tissue can actually become larger than the tissue that was removed and thus make the obstructions and the sleep apnea much worse. Other people have reported suddenly suffering from terrible acid reflux after undergoing the surgery, even individuals who have never had any prior history.

upppWhile it was stated earlier that the surgery shouldn't affect your voice, a very small percentage of people do find their voice to be more nasal after the surgery, but in most cases this is simply a result of swelling and will eventually go away. However, sometimes the surgery does cause mucous to drain into the nose, and in these cases, the nasally voice will remain.

Additionally, as with any surgery, there is also the risk of bleeding and infections following the procedure. The risk for infections is especially high as it is very difficult to keep the mouth properly cleaned, so you'll have to be diligent to minimize this risk.

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