B. Tucker Woodson, MD, chief of the division of sleep medicine and surgery, speaks about obstructive sleep apnea and treatment options.
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The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin's Sleep Disorders Program leads the field in innovative treatments for sleep disorders:

  • First in the nation to treat a sleep apnea patient with Upper Airway Stimulation (hypoglossal nerve stimulation).
  • First in the world to use Coblation™ — a noninvasive radiofrequency energy used to shrink lingual tonsils to treat sleep apnea.
  • First in the nation to treat obstructive sleep apnea with a tongue suspension suture, a simple procedure that helps keep the tongue base from collapsing during sleep.
  • First in the nation to treat sleep apnea using a technique to lengthen the jaw bone (mandibular distraction).
  • First in the region to treat airway obstruction using the Pillar™ implant — small polyester inserts that stiffen the soft palate.

Advanced Treatment for Sleep Disorders

Surgeons in the Sleep Disorders Program are international leaders in the development of better reconstructive surgical procedures for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and snoring. The procedures focus on reconstructing the normal anatomy and replace historic methods that remove structures and tissue from the throat. By improving airway structure (repositioning and realigning tissues) in contrast to excising and removing tissues.

  • Function and healing are better.
  • Recovery is faster.
  • Studies show better sleep outcomes.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Treatment options may include minimally invasive radiofrequency procedures, office-based surgeries and simple palatal implants. Ancillary surgeries alone may not cure sleep apnea or snoring, but they may help improve the outcomes of other surgeries.

Advanced Surgical Procedures

Surgery may be needed to correct a sleep disorder, particularly to correct OSA. In some cases, surgery can also be done to remove obstructions in the throat and correct abnormal snoring. Surgery is also an option to remove severe nasal obstructions in people who suffer from insomnia.

Surgery may be recommended when other treatments do not work, or it may augment other sleep disorder therapies. Surgery is performed for people with:

  • Lesions (abnormalities) of the upper airway tissue
  • Apnea that has failed medical treatment
  • A lifestyle that precludes other treatments for obstructive sleep apnea
  • Habitual snoring in the absence of obstructive sleep apnea

The decision to perform surgery is based on the location of the collapsed tissue, the severity of the disease, associated medical risk and the likelihood of success. No single surgical procedure will work for all people.

The goal of surgery is to stabilize the upper airway by modifying its size or shape and reducing the amount of collapsible tissue in the throat to prevent collapse and obstruction. This includes removing any obstructions in the throat such as growths, polyps, or enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Oral and maxillofacial surgery may be needed to correct abnormal facial structures, such as a recessed jaw.

Not all surgeries are covered by all insurance carriers. Please check with your health insurance provider to determine your coverage.

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