UPPP Surgery

UPPP Surgery or UP3 or Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

During UPPP surgery, also known as UP3 or uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, tissue is removed from a person’s upper respiratory system which can help cure sleep apnea. Removing tissue from this area is meant to open up the back of the mouth and the top of the throat—usually in order to allow air to move more easily through to the patient’s lungs. Some areas of tissue that may be reduced in size or removes altogether during UPP surgery include:

  • Uvula—soft tissue located at the back of a patient’s mouth, along the roof of the mouth
  • Soft palate—soft part of the roof of a patient’s mouth, different from the hard palate which contains bone and cartilage
  • Tonsils and adenoids—sections of lymph tissue located in a patient’s throat meant to fight off bodily infection through the creation of antibodies


UPPP as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Surgery

UPPP surgery is not medical procedure that small children undergo when getting their tonsils and adenoids removed for other health purposes—although getting your tonsils and adenoids removed at a young age may cure sleep apnea in some patients. Usually, any surgical form of treatment for sleep apnea is only reccomennded when traditional methods such as CPAP do not prove to be a viable option.

When surgery is necessary, however, UPPP is one of the most common procedures performed to treat patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder marked by narrowing or blockage of the upper respiratory system that causes a patient to pause or stop breathing while sleeping. The condition should be treated as soon as possible after it is diagnosed during a sleep study or polysomnography because long-term effects of sleep apnea, including daytime sleepiness and a weakened immune system due to an overall lack of oxygen during sleep, may lead to more serious medical conditions such as depression or anxiety.

After tissue removal is complete post-UPPP, your doctor or a sleep expert may instruct you to use a CPAP machine and CPAP masks in addition to the recent surgery as treatment. CPAP devices help sleep apnea patients breathe throughout the night by essentially pumping air pressure into the nose, mouth and upper respiratory passages and not allowing them to collapse or get too narrow during the night. After UPPP surgery, you may also need to take certain painkillers and other medications to help ease your throat muscles and keep them from tightening up, worsening any sleep apnea symptoms you may have already been experiencing.

UPPP surgery has been reported as a successful sleep disorder treatment for slightly less than half of the patients who undergo it. The reason for this is probably because some patients have structural problems or obstructions that occur much lower down the respiratory system than the areas mentioned above. So while these areas may become more open, deeper obstruction may restrict air flow to the lungs at night. If anything, UPPP surgery has an additional effect of curing or at least improving the symptoms of snoring in sleep apnea patients, even if their apneas (pauses or stops in breath) reoccur. Complications of UPPP surgery, including swelling, infection, speech problems and breathing problems, are mildly common and occur more often in patients who are obsese.  Contact a sleep doctor to learn more about your sleep disorder treatment options.