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Hypopharyngeal Surgery

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Hypopharyngeal airway surgery is a type of sleep surgery for obstruction (blockage) in the lower throat that causes sleep-disordered breathing problems, like obstructive sleep apnea.

Hypopharyngeal surgery opens the airways behind the nasal cavity and mouth to improve breathing while you sleep. There are different causes for hypopharyngeal airway obstruction, most commonly tongue size or problems with the tongue muscle that makes it collapse (fall back) into the throat.

Types of hypopharyngeal surgery include:

  • Upper airway stimulation: electrical pulses activate muscle tone
  • Genioglossus advancement: repositions the tongue at the point where it attaches to the lower jaw
  • Tongue base ablation: shrinks and tightens the base of the tongue
  • Hyoid and tongue base suspension: repositions the hyoid bone (anchor structure for the tongue) and tongue base
  • Skeletal surgery: expands the jaws to open the entire airway

Visit with a sleep medicine specialist at the University of Miami Health System to find out if hypopharyngeal surgery is right for you.

Why Choose UHealth?

Experienced pediatric and adult sleep surgeons. You can be confident your surgery is performed by board-certified pediatric or adult sleep medicine surgeons. Whatever the procedure, you receive the right care for the best outcomes.

Innovative minimally invasive hypopharyngeal procedures for sleep disorders. We always choose the least invasive techniques to effectively treat your condition — which means less pain and a quicker recovery. Our sleep surgeons also offer the most advanced techniques like upper airway stimulation for obstructive sleep apnea.

Combined surgeries to make life easier for you. We understand the various causes of sleep-disordered breathing problems and perform expert procedures at the same time whenever possible. Some hypopharyngeal procedures can be combined or performed with other techniques for obstruction higher in the airway system, such as nasal or palate surgery.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Who is a Candidate?


Hypopharyngeal airway surgery may be an option when other sleep medicine therapies haven’t worked, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral devices, or medicines. Candidates for hypopharyngeal airway surgery have sleep-disordered breathing caused by:

  • Tongue muscle weakness
  • Tongue base that’s too large
  • Muscle weakness in the airways in the lower throat
  • Inflammation, or swelling, in the structures in the lower throat
  • Misaligned jaw bones

What to Expect

  • Upper Airway Stimulation

    Upper airway stimulation (sometimes called Inspire® therapy) is an implanted remote-controlled system. The system senses breathing patterns and delivers small electric pulses to activate nerves and open the airways during sleep. It involves three small implants:

    • Electrode placed on the hypoglossal nerve to make the tongue muscles move
    • Sensing lead placed between the rib muscles to detect breathing
    • Neurostimulator placed in the right upper chest to send the electrical pulse

    The implant procedure takes about two hours and is performed as an outpatient surgery (no overnight hospital stay). It takes about two weeks to recover fully.

  • Genioglossus Advancement Surgery

    This surgery involves the genioglossus muscle — the largest muscle in the tongue that is attached to a boney structure that sticks out of the lower jaw. The surgeon moves (advances) the tongue forward to prevent it from collapsing and blocking the airway during sleep. Generally, the surgeon will:

    • Make an incision in the lower lip
    • Cut a small rectangular segment in the lower jaw bone
    • Move the bone segment forward, with the tongue muscle, about an inch
    • Secure the fragment with a tiny screw to keep it in place

    The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and you will stay overnight at the hospital. Recovery can take 10 to 14 days.

  • Tongue Base Ablation

    Also referred to as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for the tongue base, this minimally invasive procedure creates more room in the lower throat for airflow. It delivers targeted energy to scar the base of the tongue, causing it to shrink and tighten during healing.

    The procedure takes about 30 minutes in an outpatient office setting. Recovery takes a few hours and you should see results within one week.

  • Hyoid and Tongue Base Suspension

    Tongue and hyoid suspension repositions the tongue base and the hyoid bone (a small horseshoe-shaped bone that supports muscles in the back of the throat) to expand and stabilize the airway. It combines two procedures: genioglossus advancement (repositions the tongue at the point where it attaches to the lower jaw) and hyoid advancement (suspends the hyoid bone to the front of the jaw bone with a sling-like stitch).

    Tongue and hyoid suspension surgery is often performed with other sleep surgeries for obstruction higher in the upper airways, such as the nose and mouth. The procedure requires an overnight hospital stay. Recovery usually takes a week, with a return to full activity within two weeks.

  • Skeletal Surgery

    Skeletal surgery involves moving the upper jawbone (the maxilla) and the lower jawbone (the mandible) forward in a procedure called maxillomandibular advancement. This skeletal surgery corrects misalignment (incorrect position) and opens the entire airway system. Maxillomandibular advancement takes a few hours, requires two to three days in the hospital, and a four-week recovery period.


Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • CompCare (Comprehensive Behavioral Care)
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Global Health Claims Services
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana HUMx
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care