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A New Method to Treat Sleep Apnea

Struggling with a CPAP? This new surgical technique may be able to help your sleep apnea.
By David Wolraich, MD

According to the American Sleep Association, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) impacts roughly 25 million adults in the US. The standard treatment for this breathing disorder is to wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask during sleep, which forces air into the nose and mouth to overcome the obstruction in the airway. However, many people find it difficult to sleep with a CPAP mask and therefore don’t comply with treatment recommendations. For those unable to tolerate the CPAP, alternative treatment solutions have typically been weight loss, oral appliances or surgery.

Surgical options are always evolving. The newest option, TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS), is a surgery aimed at patients whose sleep apnea is caused by tongue-based airway obstructions during sleep.

How Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS) Works

With the minimally invasive TORS procedure, surgeons are able to perform surgery through the mouth to remove obstructions blocking the patient’s airway in the tongue base and/or throat. Using the da Vinci® robotic surgery system, surgeons have more dexterity and are able to work farther back in the throat for more precise removal of hard-to-reach tissues and more effectively reduce the size of the base of the tongue.

The robotic instrumentation flexes at an artificial wrist allowing more movement and precise manipulation of tissue in tight areas. The TORS procedure also allows for increased vision for the surgeon thanks to innovative high definition (HD) camera placement and 3D image modeling. Previously, the only way to obtain this sort of visualization and freedom of movement was through traditional incisions in the neck. The surgeon still performs the surgery, as the robotic system only moves with input from the surgeon at the control panel.

Are You a Candidate For Sleep Apnea Surgery?

TORS sleep apnea surgery is for patients who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices. In order to be assessed for TORS sleep apnea surgery, patients need to schedule an in-office consultation/examination. During this appointment, sleep study results are reviewed and the patient undergoes endoscopic examination to identify the exact areas of obstruction. Some patients will need drug-induced sleep endoscopy to identify sites of obstruction. In this procedure, a patient is given intravenous anesthesia in the operating room in order to mimic sleep. Flexible endoscopic examination is then carried out in this state to identify potential sites of obstruction. When the tongue base or epiglottis is identified as a site of obstruction, the patient is a candidate for the TORS sleep apnea procedure.

If you have sleep apnea, and are looking for an alternative solution to your CPAP, please schedule an appointment by calling 630-873-8700. This comprehensive evaluation will determine if you are a candidate for TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS).

Physicians & Experts

Learn more about:
Otolaryngology (ENT)
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