Genioglossus Surgery

Genioglossus Advancement as a Surgery for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

There are many different types of surgery that have been used as treatment of sleep apnea, including but not limited to genioglossus advancement, UPPP surgery (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty), nasal surgery, maxillomandibular advancement, tongue reduction surgery and others. Surgery itself is often used only in severe cases, when the effects of sleep apnea are jeopardizing the patient’s life or the patient is morbidly obese. Knowing your options when it comes to sleep apnea and surgery can help you and your doctor or sleep director make the best decision in terms of treatment. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by obstruction of the airway passages that causes a person to struggle with breathing while sleeping. Oftentimes, obstruction or blockage can occur deeper down the trachea, or windpipe, or higher up in the respiratory system, such as when the tongue or excessive tissue in the mouth and throat restricts air flow to the lungs.

Genioglossus advancement surgery is designed to prevent a patient’s tongue from collapsing backward and blocking the passageway for air while he or she is sleeping. During the surgical procedure, the genioglossus (the main muscle of the tongue) is moved forward by surgically adjusting a structure at the base of the tongue that usually holds it in place. The theory behind repositioning this entire structure, with the patient’s tongue attached, is that moving tissue away from the opening of the throat will ultimately make it easier for the patient to breathe while lying down and reduce the chances of a collapse. This type of surgery involves more structural manipulation than a procedure like UPPP, which simply requires that excess tissue be removed, not repositioned. UPPP surgery is actually much more common, but depending on the type of obstruction found in a sleep apnea patient, geniolossus or another surgery may be recommended.

In general, genioglossus surgery is performed while a patient is wholly sedated. The actual operation will take no more than 30 to 40 minutes, but the patient must stay overnight to heal and to be monitored by professionals. Normal daily activities, including work, can usually be resumed within 2 weeks. While UPPP surgery may affect speech, genioglossus surgery is more associated with a high level of pain and swelling. The patient’s teeth may also become numb for a period of time. Sometimes, genioglossus advancement is paired with tongue reduction therapy and other types of surgery to cure sleep apnea. Contact a sleep center today if you have not responded well to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and think surgery may be an option to treat your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).