Sleep Apnea Surgery, Snoring Surgery: Types

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Surgeries to eliminate or improve sleep apnea or snoring range from minor clinic-based procedures to complex operations. Our head and neck surgeons have the necessary training and expertise to offer the right surgery and help you get a good night’s sleep.

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What to Expect

Sleep apnea surgery or snoring surgery usually, but not always, requires general anesthesia and is performed in an operating room. Some surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, but more complex procedures may require an overnight hospital stay. 

Our Locations

Duke Health offers sleep apnea and snoring surgery in Durham and Raleigh.

Surgery Types

Sleep apnea or snoring surgeries target three main areas -- the nasal, palate, and/or tongue regions -- to reduce obstructions and widen airways. You may need intervention in more than one area. 

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Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation, also known as cold ablation, can be done in the nasal, palate, tongue, and epiglottis (a flap of tissue that prevents food and liquid from entering the windpipe) regions. This type of sleep apnea or snoring surgery is generally well-tolerated and has shorter recovery times than some others. Radiofrequency technology uses ions and a specialized probe to intentionally form scar tissue -- this stabilizes the tissue, making it less likely to vibrate or block airflow. Depending on several factors, radiofrequency ablation can be performed in your doctor’s office with local anesthesia or in an operating room with general anesthesia. You may need more than one treatment for best results.

Nasal Region Surgeries

These surgeries tend to be easier to tolerate and less painful than palate or tongue surgeries. Nasal surgeries address nasal obstruction and sometimes make it easier to tolerate positive airway pressure therapy (for example, CPAP). 

Nasal valve surgery expands and stabilizes the area directly behind the nostrils called the internal nasal valves. Surgeons may use cartilage from the nasal septum or another area of your body, a nasal implant, or radiofrequency to reshape or reinforce the area.

Septoplasty straightens a septum -- the dividing wall between your nostrils -- that is crooked or offset (a deviated septum). Septoplasty may also be used to remove bony growths called septal spurs.

Turbinate reduction surgery reduces the size of turbinates (a combination of C-shaped bones and soft tissue that helps filter air within the nasal passages). 

Rhinoplasty reduces obstruction inside the nasal passages.

Palate Region Surgeries

These are generally combined with a tonsillectomy (removing the tonsils). 

Palatal advancement removes part of the hard palate (part of the roof of your mouth) and moves the soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth) forward. 

Palatopharyngoplasty removes and repositions palatal tissue and muscles to create more space behind the soft palate.

Palatoplasty procedures such as the barbed suture technique (using a special type of surgical stitch), uvula trimming procedures (reducing the size of the uvula), and palate radiofrequency are used to tighten or reduce palate tissues. These tend to be used for snoring in people without sleep apnea.

Tongue Region Surgeries

These surgeries aim to prevent the tongue from flopping back or to reduce its size.

Epiglottis surgery moves the epiglottis forward, reshapes it, or removes part of it.

Genioglossus advancement moves forward the bony area where the genioglossus (the largest muscle of the tongue) attaches to either side of the lower jaw.

Hyoid suspension connects the hyoid bone (the U-shaped bone in the neck located above the Adam’s apple) to the jawbone or thyroid to stabilize the airway.

Lingual tonsillectomy removes much of the central lingual tonsils located on the back of the tongue. 

Midline glossectomy removes a portion of the tongue to reduce its size.

Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulator - Inspire
This pacemaker-like device is surgically implanted into your chest during an outpatient procedure. A sensor inserted near your lungs monitors breathing patterns and stimulates the hypoglossal nerve in your neck, which controls your tongue’s movements. The stimulation causes your tongue to move forward slightly when you inhale, which opens your airway to prevent apnea episodes. The device is programmed to only function at night after you’ve fallen asleep and can be adjusted to deliver just the right amount of stimulation to your nerve. 

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 11/03/2023 by