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Other Treatments for Sleep Apnea

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Managing Breathing Interruptions During Sleep

Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) Devices

There are several different systems that deliver air and pressure through the nose or mouth. The continuous delivery of pressurized air helps to keep the tissues in the throat open. Some CPAP masks fit over the mouth and nose, while others fit over only the nose. Some devices simply deliver a preset amount of air at a preset unit of pressure. Other devices deliver more pressure with every inhalation and a bit less with every exhalation. Other devices monitor breathing and only add pressure if the machine senses a breathing abnormality.

Many of the devices are uncomfortable to wear if not fitted properly. They often dry out the nose and/or mouth, irritate the skin, leave you with a headache, and are bulky and tight to wear. However, CPAP devices provide clear benefits if you have sleep apnea that ranges from mild to severe.

Dental and Orthodontic Devices

Several dental devices are available to treat sleep apnea. These devices may hold the tongue down, thrust it forward, or thrust the lower jaw forward. These devices seem to be less frustrating to use than CPAP devices, although they are only effective as a treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Pillar Palatal Implants

This procedure allows stiffening of the palate by implanting permanent pieces of silastic, a silicone elastomer. This procedure may be more effective for treating snoring than sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the implant may help to reduce daytime sleepiness.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to destroy abnormal tissue. Applying this technology to the palate and the base of the tongue can shrink the tissue and widen the airway. Ablation is successful in the treatment of snoring. But, studies do not show adequate effectiveness in the treatment of sleep apnea.

Revision Information

  • Fischer Y, Khan M, et al. Multilevel temperature-controlled radiofrequency therapy of soft palate, base of tongue, and tonsils in adults with obstructive sleep apnea. Laryngoscope. 2003;113:1786-1791.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 23, 2013. Accessed June 3, 2013.

  • Sleep apnea. American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at: http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea.html. Accessed June 3, 2013.

  • Snoring. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/snoring.cfm. Accessed June 3, 2013.

  • Steward DL. Effectiveness of multilevel (tongue and palate) radiofrequency tissue ablation for patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Laryngoscope. 2004;114:2073-2084.

  • What is sleep apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea%5FSummary.html. Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed June 3, 2013.