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Surgery Can Cut Sleep Apnea

Snipping away excess tissue helps, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A procedure that removes excess tissue in the throat or mouth to widen the airway can help improve or cure obstructive sleep apnea, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers followed 63 patients, ages 18 to 80, for seven years and found that the procedure, called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), eliminated obstructive sleep apnea in one-quarter to one-third of the patients, depending on the definition of success.

Of the patients who continued to have some obstructive sleep apnea and returned to the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment, their required CPAP setting was somewhat lower. The researchers also found that UPPP reduced the mean apnea hyponea index in patients.

"The apnea-hyponea index basically tells us the number of times a patient with sleep apnea quits breathing per hour," lead author Dr. Akram Khan, assistant professor at the University of Florida, Jacksonville, explained in a prepared statement. "We found that the surgical procedure reduced patients' apenic (non-breathing) episodes by more than half."

The study was to be presented Wednesday at CHEST, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, in Chicago.

Khan noted that CPAP "is a well-established treatment for sleep apnea, and while most patients tolerate it well, some are unable to tolerate it or don't want to, and these patients need alternative means of treatment."

UPPP, first described in 1981, has been widely used but produced varying results. Patients who have mild obstructive sleep apnea and are relatively young, healthy and lean, may have the best results with this procedure, researchers suggest.

More information

The American Sleep Apnea Association has more about sleep apnea assessment.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Amercian College of Chest Physicians, news release, Oct. 24, 2007

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