7 Reasons Not to Undergo Sleep Apnea Surgery

For many of you, the idea of sleeping with a mask or something inside your mouth makes you cringe. Sleep apnea is taking a toll on your personal and professional life, and you’re willing to consider surgery. You do your research, but find that there are so many different opinions about sleep apnea surgery, it’s impossible to make any sense in deciding on the options.  For a summary of how to decide if surgery is right for you, read my report, “The Truth About Sleep Apnea Surgery.”
In this post, I will reveal 7 reasons why you should avoid sleep apnea surgery. In my next post, I’ll go over 7 good reasons to think about surgery for sleep apnea.
1. You’re severely overweight
Studies have shown that the more overweight you are, the less likely any surgery for sleep apnea will succeed. In general losing significant weight will lower your sleep apnea severity by only one level (severe to moderate, moderate to mid, etc.). However, once you do lose a lot of weight, you can be a better candidate for surgery. 
One type of surgery that I recommend often is nasal surgery. In general, it’s not going to cure you of  your sleep apnea. However, being able to breathe better through your nose can make CPAP or dental appliances (or even future surgery) work much better.
2. You have severe OSA
In general, the more overweight you are, the less likely you’ll respond to sleep apnea surgery. If you can lose a significant amount of weight, then the better your chances for surgical success.
3. Your surgeon recommended a UPPP only
There are exceptions to this situation, but in general, a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) along has less than a 40% chance of surgical success. “Let’s do the UPPP to see if it works” is not a good answer. Your surgeon should make recommendations based on the published data, personal experience and your unique situation.
4. Many hospitals and surgeon are not experienced with OSA surgery
Most ENT surgeons will be familiar with basic sleep apnea procedures, but there are very few that do a variety of different surgical procedures  at different levels of the throat. Since undergoing anesthesia with sleep apnea also places you at a higher risk, it’s important that the anesthesiologist and hospital is well experienced in treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea.
5. You haven’t tried CPAP or dental devices
From a practical standpoint, it’s unlikely that your insurance company will approve any kind of surgery if you have not tried a CPAP or dental appliance first. Medically speaking, it’s generally recommended trying non-surgical options before considering surgery. 
6. Your nose is stuffy
The more stuffy your nose is, the less likely throat surgery will help. This concept applies to CPAP and dental appliances, and it applies to surgery as well.
7. You don’t have family or friend’s support
Undergoing any type of surgery is a big commitment. You’ll need help making errands, doing chores around the house and to help you cook and eat meals. Most importantly, it’s vital that your family members are supportive of your decision. 
If you’re considering undergoing surgery for sleep apnea, how many of the above reasons do you have not to undergo the procedure? Please participate in the discussion in your favorite social media link below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “7 Reasons Not to Undergo Sleep Apnea Surgery

  1. I had the surgery in 1990. I believe it saved my life. Now along with cpap I live a fairly normal life.My ENT was very careful in evaluating my case.

  2. Sorry but I disagree with you

    Sleep surgery is an excellent option in OSAHS treatment

    On PubMEd you can find a lot’s of paper about that.

    Please if you are a serious doctor (Dr. PArk) you have to delete the previous 7 points,
    You are making only a poor commercial. (It’s not good for patients)

  3. Mr. Mangili,

    This post is Part 1 of my pro/con series on various treatment options for sleep apnea. I’m not saying that you should never undergo surgery. But having some or all of the listed reasons makes it less likely you’ll find success with surgery. Most of the points are based on peer-reviewed research studies. Please stay tuned for my next post titled: 7 Good Reasons To Consider Surgery for Sleep Apnea.

  4. Dr. Walline in Los Angeles has advised MMA surgery for me.

    1. My BMI is 30 but it’s been as low as 23 (post UPPP) and I still had trouble.

    2. Sleep studies always show mild sleep apnea but, I have prolonged oxygen desaturation in the 80-89% range. ‘

    3. UPPP was in 2000.

    4. Dr Walline does 1 or 2 MMA per week for years. Both he and Dr Relle will do the surgery together. They do a mock virtual surgery for practice. My therapist has observed him operate on her niece and she says there isn’t anything he does that is not excellent.

    5. I have had 2 dental appliances which did little more than give me permanent misalignment in my jaw. Auto Bi-PAP has resulted an perhaps a 25% improvement.

    6. At your recommendation, I use Breathe Right strips which work well but don’t help my sleep. I have post nasal drip and know it is a factor but not the cause.

    7. I will hire a helper.

  5. I have a comment about #7: not having family/friend support. my experience is that being ill from OSA and not having support is WORSE than going through the surgery without support. it is better to piece together something and just get the surgery done, suffer for a short period of time, and then you can function independently for the future and feel more stable on your own once you are feeling better. being ill from OSA can be more incapacitating than the surgery.

  6. I know that losing weight can be a much better alternative to surgery, but I don’t understand how being overweight can be a problem before surgery. From my understanding I will be on a liquid diet a few days before and after surgery, and for the most part there can be, or are slight complications after surgery with swallowing and/or food coming back out until one adjusts to the post surgery. Won’t this cause some weight loss in itself?

  7. This is very helpful for me to consider it more…not less. As I am not at all overweight and I have tried two dental devices and two CPAP/Mask combos. MY AHI is 28 which I read as Moderate, yet Drs consider it Severe as it is very close to 30 which is considered Severe. My worthless Sleep Dr has been telling me for 4 years that my only option is CPAP. And just 6 months ago I have found 3 Dr’s with incredible credentials that claim a better than 90% cure rate. My question to all of you and Dr Park…which surgeon would you choose? I won’t mention their names here yet as I’m not sure if appropriate.I have recently had a Sleep Induced Endoscopy which shows my newest Dental Device works well…my problem is I’m not tolerating it well. Difficult to initiate sleep and difficult to keep in for more than a few hours. A Trazadone pill helps me to keep it in longer but gives you dry mouth and other side effects. Any additional info or encouragement either way would be helpful. Thanks, bruce

  8. Mr. McDonel,

    I’m assuming you’re talking about MMA surgeons. This is a good procedure but don’t Rule out other soft tissue procedures based on your sleep endoscopy results. Many people can get better result when they add soft tissue and jaw surgery together. Good luck.