Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure for opening and widening the upper airways by taking out any extra tissue in the throat.
This procedure might be recommended for treating your snoring or sleep apnea, a condition affecting night time breathing. Generally, this procedure can effectively improve sleep apnea permanently as well as decrease snoring.
This procedure is generally recommended by your doctor if you have mild obstructive sleep apnea. First, he/she will generally recommend lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or changing your sleep position. Sometimes, nasal expanding trips or an oral device is also recommended before UPPP is considered.
The surgery is not recommended for everyone, so before you undergo it, you may want to consider how important for you it is to stop snoring.
If you are pregnant or think that you might be, then it is important to let your doctor know. Let him/her known know what kind of medications, supplements or herbs you might be taking. If you drink excess alcohol, you need to inform him/.her as well.
It is likely that your doctor will ask you to stop taking certain medications including blood thinners. It is important to stop smoking, as it can interfere with the healing process. Ask your health providers for help with quitting or reducing smoking, if you need it.
If you get the flu, cold, fever or any other illness prior to your surgery, then it is important to let your doctor know. Your surgery might need to be postponed if you get sick.
On the day of the surgery, it is likely that your doctor will ask you to avoid eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure.
First, a special device will be used for keeping your mouth open. To support your head, pillows might be placed under your shoulder as well.
It is likely that your tonsils will be removed if you are still having them. The soft tissue at the back of your mouth is trimmed and the small piece of flesh, which hangs down from the soft palate, i.e. the uvula is removed.
Next, the edges of the remaining tissue are closed using stitches. These stitches generally dissolve on their own in a few weeks. You might receive a sedative to prevent any pain after the surgery.
After the procedure is complete, you will be taken to another room. Your throat will be very sore initially and you might find it hard to talk and swallow. You might feel sleepy and nauseated. If you are still feeling pain, let your health providers know and you will receive pain medicine.
An overnight hospital stay might be required so that your breathing can be monitored closely.
Once you are home, it is important to follow all instructions carefully. You might experience throat pain as you are recovering. This can come and go. Before the pain improves, it may get worse for a few days after the surgery. Within around 21 days, the pain should completely go away.
It is important for you to take all your medicines as directed. Don’t drive while you are on any kind of narcotic pain medicine, as it can generally cause you to feel sleepy or dizzy.
Make sure you drink cold liquids, such as water, non-citrus juices, as well as frozen juice bars. Stick to colder and softer foods which are the easiest to swallow. Mashed potatoes, eggs and pasta might be good choices.
Try to avoid coughing or clearing your throat for at least two weeks. Don’t use medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin for two weeks, unless your doctor says it is okay to do so.
You will also need to limit all exercise and physical activity. Your doctor should let you know when it is possible to return to any normal activity.
For the first two weeks, it is important to avoid lifting any heavy objects.
If you experience chest pain or trouble breathing, seek urgent medical care. You will also need urgent medical care if you experience heavy bleeding in your throat, which doesn’t stop.
If you experience any type of bleeding from your mouth or nose or severe pain, which is not relieved by medicine, you need to inform your doctor. Also, let your doctor known if you are unable to eat and drink for 2-3 days and see signs of dehydration.
Make sure you visit your doctor for a follow-up so that he/she can check on your healing. Few months after the surgery, a sleep study can be done, to check whether your sleep apnea has improved.
Though it is rare to experience complications from UPPP, in some cases, a patient can experience a few problems, which can include:
- Bleeding, which might happen a week or more after the surgery
- Changes in how your voice sounds
- Severe throat pain during your healing period
- The feeling that something is stuck in your throat
- Failure to cure sleep apnea
- Liquids going into the nose when swallowing
- Risks of anesthesia