Somnoplasty: A New Way to Treat Snoring

For some people, snoring is a big deal. It is something that can disrupt their sleep and the sleep of those around them. Even without realizing it, chronic snoring can make one tired and irritable, because it can prevent a person from getting a regular night’s rest.

Of course, there is no shortage of potential solutions to snoring, but natural solutions like changing pillows, altering the sleeping position, or staying hydrated don’t always work for chronic snorers. On the other end of the spectrum are more radical solutions, like undergoing surgery or using a CPAP machine every night. Those solutions can be both expensive and invasive, and they do not always work in the long run.

However, there may be a procedure that’s somewhere in between home remedies and full-blown surgical procedures. It is called a somnoplasty, or “radio-frequency tissue reduction,” an outpatient procedure approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). It is significantly less invasive than traditional surgery, and is becoming an increasingly popular method of addressing chronic snoring and other sleeping conditions.

The Somnoplasty Procedure

This procedure is typically performed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. Patients are given local anesthesia while the physician uses a thin electrode needle around the soft palate, uvula, and base of the tongue, all of which are located at the back of the throat.

Rather than removing tissue to create more space at the back of the throat, radio-frequency energy will be applied to these areas to create scar tissue. The scar tissue will shrink and then stiffen, which in turn creates more space in the back of the throat and the upper airway. With more space, there is less likely to be the kind of vibrations or obstructions that cause snoring.

The procedure typically lasts no longer than thirty to forty-five minutes, and patients tend to need three or four sessions before they start to see results. Each session is usually spaced about six weeks apart.

Pre-Procedure Protocol for Somnoplasty

Before recommending somnoplasty, a doctor may want a patient to attempt more conservative remedies like sleeping in a different position or maintaining healthier sleep habits. A doctor may also want to use this procedure in conjunction with these more holistic treatments, especially given how it can take six months to undergo four sessions.

It is also likely that a doctor will have a patient undergo a formal sleep study prior to recommending somnoplasty. A sleep study could help determine the seriousness of one’s snoring and possibly rule out a more severe ailment that a different procedure may be better suited to address. For instance, this may not be the best course for someone with sleep apnea.

Benefits & Side Effects

Like all medical procedures, there are potential side effects. It is possible for patients to experience some discomfort or difficulty swallowing in the hours immediately following the procedure. Bleeding, nasal regurgitation, and infections are also possible.

For many chronic snorers, the potential benefits will outweigh the possible side effects. As mentioned, a somnoplasty requires only local anesthesia, not general anesthesia like other surgical options. This means a quick recovery time for most patients, who will not have to disrupt their lives. More importantly, studies have shown that multiple sessions can make a meaningful difference when it comes to chronic snoring. Just be sure to discuss with your regular doctor for a more personalized medical opinion.

Sources / Learn More

  • https://www.uwmedicine.org/health-library/Pages/radiofrequency-tissue-reduction.aspx
  • https://www.ghs.org/healthcareservices/surgery/otolaryngology-head-neck/greenville-ear-nose-throat-ent/services/somnoplasty/
  • https://abcnews.go.com/Health/DrJohnson/story?id=118241&page=1
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17577-treatments-for-snoring
  • https://news.yale.edu/2001/01/11/snoring-and-sleep-apnea-treated-innovative-somnoplasty-technique-yale

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