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Palate Surgery


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Palate surgery corrects obstruction (blockage) in the area behind the soft-palate located in the roof of the mouth, that causes sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

Palate surgery makes room in the upper throat to improve breathing while you sleep. There are different causes for palate obstruction, including structural and inflammatory conditions that can happen at the same time. Types of palate surgery include:

  • Tonsillectomy: removes the tonsils, or the structures in the sides of the throat
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): removes excess tissue in the upper throat
  • Surgically-assisted rapid palatal expansion: widens the arch in the upper jaw (called the maxilla)

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

Who is a Candidate?

Palate surgery may be an option for snoring or obstructive sleep apnea in children and adults when other therapies do not work, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or medicines. Qualified candidates for palate surgery have a healthy weight, and sleep-disordered breathing problems caused by:

  • Enlarged tonsils that block the airway
  • Long uvula, or the soft finger-like structure that hangs in the back of the throat
  • Narrow palate, or roof of the mouth

What to Expect

Tonsillectomy - Tonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea involves removing the soft tissue pads located on the sides of the throat to make more room for air to flow. The surgeon uses a blade, heat, or targeted energy to remove or destroy the tissue. A tonsillectomy is performed as outpatient surgery (no overnight hospital stay) and requires up to a week to recover.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) - Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty involves different procedures used in combination to make more room in the back of the throat. The surgeon may reposition the palate muscles, and/or remove enlarged tonsils or adenoids (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy).

This type of palate surgery involves a variety of techniques, including targeted energy to scar the tissue to shrink and tighten it during healing, and repositioning the soft palate by stitching tissue to the sides of the throat. UPPP is an outpatient procedure (no overnight hospital stay). It takes a week to recover, with a return to normal activity within two weeks.

Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expansion - Surgically assisted rapid palatal expansion improves airflow by correcting a narrow palate from plates, or bones, in the roof of the mouth that fused together incorrectly during development.

It involves two procedures. First, the surgeon inserts a custom orthopedic expanding device to stabilize the upper jaw. Then, the surgeon separates the jaw, aligns it to the lower jaw, and adjusts the expanding device to keep it in place.

Surgically assisted rapid expansion is an outpatient surgery (no overnight hospital stay) that requires a two-week recovery. The expander will stay in place for three months. Once removed, orthodontic treatment will fix the gap in the teeth caused by separation.

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.

Advanced techniques for sleep disorders involving the palate. Our sleep surgeons use less aggressive approaches in uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Rather than removing the uvula completely, we reposition tissue to maximize air flow, and reduce the risk for surgical complications.

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 palate surgeries can be performed with hypopharyngeal surgery for obstruction higher in the airway system.

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