Surgery hope for people with sleep apnoea

By Jamie Salter

A simple surgery could be a dream come true for the billion people around the world struggling with obstructive sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, with symptoms including loud snoring and feeling tired after a full night's sleep.

Almost 30 per cent of people with the condition wake up easily, with light sleep and other problems caused by minor airway narrowing.

About 50 per cent of people can not use the main treatment for sleep apnoea — a continuous positive airway pressure machine.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the surgery offered excellent outcomes for sleep apnoea patients who had been unable to use a CPAP machine.

The multi-level surgical technique combines a new version of palate surgery with a low-risk tongue procedure.

It creates an improved airway resulting in a substantial reduction in the number of night-time apnoea events and improvements in daytime sleepiness and quality of life.

After removing any tonsils, the palate is repositioned and the tongue treated to open up the airway and reduce obstruction.

Flinders University professor Doug McEvoy said the surgery offered promise for people who were unable to adapt to using a CPAP mask or similar device each night.

“This trial is the result of extensive prior research into the surgical treatment of sleep apnoea and gives new hope to people who, without treatment, would each day continue to feel sleepy and depressed and may have their lives cut short by the detrimental effects of long-term interrupted sleep,” Mr McEvoy said.