Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is surgery to open the upper airways by taking out extra tissue in the throat. It may be done to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or severe snoring.
Palate surgery; Uvulopalatal flap procedure; UPPP; Laser-assisted uvulopalaplasty; Radiofrequency palatoplasty; Velopharyngeal insufficiency - UPPP; Obstructive sleep apnea - uvulopalaplasty; OSA - uvulopalaplasty
Surgery known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) removes soft tissue at the back of the throat. This includes:
- All or part of the uvula (the soft flap of tissue that hangs down at the back of the mouth).
- Parts of the soft palate and tissue at the sides of the throat.
- Tonsils and adenoids, if they are still there.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Your doctor may recommend this surgery if you have mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
- Try lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or changing your sleep position.
- Most experts recommend trying to use CPAP or an oral device to treat OSA first.
Your doctor may recommend this surgery to treat severe snoring, even if you do not have OSA. Before you decide about this surgery:
- See if weight loss helps your snoring.
- Consider how important it is to you to treat snoring. The surgery does not work for everyone.
- Make sure your insurance will pay for this surgery. If you do not also have OSA, your insurance may not cover the surgery.
Sometimes, UPPP is done along with other more invasive surgeries to treat more severe OSA.
Risks for any surgery are:
- Allergic reactions to medicines
- Breathing problems
- Heart problems
Risks for this surgery are:
- Damage to the muscles in the throat and soft palate. You may have some problems keeping liquids from coming up through your nose when drinking (called velopharyngeal insufficiency). Most often, this is only a temporary side effect.
- Mucus in the throat
- Speech changes
Before the Procedure
Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse:
- If you are or could be pregnant
- What drugs you are taking, including drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription
- If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day
During the days before the surgery:
- You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
- Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
On the day of the surgery:
- You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for several hours before the surgery.
- Take any drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.
After the Procedure
This surgery most often requires an overnight stay in the hospital to make sure you can swallow. UPPP surgery can be painful and full recovery takes 2 or 3 weeks.
- Your throat will be very sore for up to several weeks. You will get liquid pain medicines to ease the soreness.
- You may have stitches in the back of your throat. These will dissolve or your doctor will remove them at the first follow-up visit.
- Eat only soft foods and liquids for the first 2 weeks after surgery. Avoid crunchy foods or foods that are hard to chew.
- You will need to rinse your mouth after meals with a salt-water solution for the first 7 to 10 days.
- Avoid heavy lifting or straining for the first 2 weeks. You may walk and do light activity after 24 hours.
- You will have a follow-up visit with your doctor 2 or 3 weeks after the surgery.
Sleep apnea improves at first for about half of the people who have this surgery. Over time, the benefit wears off for many people.
Some studies suggest that surgery is best suited only for people with abnormalities in the soft palate.
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Reviewed By: Sumana Jothi MD, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Airway, Voice, and Swallowing Disorders, Clinical Instructor UCSF Otolaryngology, NCHCS VA, SFVA, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.