Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder. For many years, patients suffering from this condition had limited treatment options. One of these treatments, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), was and continues to be the initial therapy prescribed in many cases. While effective if used as directed, CPAP requires a patient to wear the mask every night. For many people, this creates a problem, as compliance can be a challenge. This means that non-compliant patients are subject to all of the health risks of the disorder when they sleep without wearing their mask.
Fortunately, there have been a number of new treatments for sleep apnea developed in recent years – treatments that allow patients to break free from CPAP with effective alternatives. In this blog, the snoring specialists at the Atlanta Snoring Institute will explain one new sleep apnea treatment option in particular called base of tongue reduction.
What is a base of tongue reduction?
Sleep apnea is caused when the airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep. As a result, your body has to expend more energy in an effort to open the airway, restart the breathing process, and get proper oxygen. Sleep apnea can be caused by a number of different factors. One of the major causes is having excessive muscular bulk or poor tone at the base of your tongue or having a tongue that arches in such a way that it naturally creates a blockage in your airway. As you sleep, your tongue relaxes too, which often adds to the problem. One of the newest treatments for obstructive sleep apnea for patients with blockage caused primarily by the tongue is called base of tongue reduction.
While the name may suggest an extensive procedure, base of tongue reduction is actually a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in less than 15 minutes (per treatment) with minimal discomfort. Also referred to as radio frequency base of tongue reduction, Somnoplasty or “VOAT”, it is one of the simplest new treatments for sleep apnea. Performed right in the doctor’s office, the procedure will have you back to your normal activities in less than 30 minutes.
How does base of tongue reduction work?
Once the doctor has determined that the problem causing your sleep apnea is related to your tongue, a base of tongue reduction may be considered as a treatment option. The in-office procedure involves first applying a local anesthetic to the back of your tongue. Then, using specialized equipment, the physician will administer highly directed radio frequency waves to the base of your tongue, vaporizing the tissues and starting the process of shrinking and firming the base of tongue. The full course of treatment usually requires 4-6 sessions. Over the weeks and months that follow, scar tissue will form, effectively tightening the area. As a result, the base of your tongue will be smaller and firmer, minimizing the chances of the tongue obstructing the airway during sleep. The good news is that the procedure does not interfere with normal tongue function throughout the entire post-operative and healing phase.
Am I a candidate for this procedure?
The only person who can answer this question definitively is a sleep apnea specialist who has thoroughly examined you, taken a medical history and identified the underlying cause of your sleep apnea. This may require undergoing a home sleep study to confirm your diagnosis.
In most cases, you will be an excellent candidate for base of tongue reduction if:
- A large or high-arching tongue is the primary cause of your obstructive sleep apnea
- You cannot tolerate CPAP treatment or are non-compliant
- You are otherwise healthy and can undergo a minimally invasive procedure
What are the advantages of base of tongue reduction?
Base of tongue reduction offers several advantages as one of the cutting-edge, new treatments for sleep apnea, including:
- Recovery is quick and generally involves minimal discomfort
- It is performed from the convenience of the doctor’s office
- It is often covered by insurance
- It only requires local anesthetic
- Results are long-term
- Complications are extremely rare
What results can I expect from this procedure?
Once you have undergone this procedure, most patients experience a significant reduction in snoring intensity after the first two months. Your airway will be enlarged, meaning you can get an adequate amount of air as you sleep and the unpleasant symptoms of sleep apnea will begin to subside. Sleep will be more restful for both you and those around you who may currently be subjected to your snoring and gasping during sleep. Better sleep translates to a happier and healthier you.
Looking for new treatments for sleep apnea in Atlanta?
To start on your path to quieter and healthier nights, contact the Atlanta Snoring Institute to learn about our various new treatments for sleep apnea and to find out whether base of tongue reduction is right for you. We offer three convenient locations in the Atlanta area (Buckhead, Fayetteville and Stockbridge) so patients can access quality care close to home.