Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a serious condition caused by obstruction of the airways at the back of the nose and throat. Snoring may result in OSA, but snoring as such does not necessarily mean there is obstruction of the airways. OSA leads to pauses in breathing that is known as apnoea or apnoeic episodes and can repeatedly recur throughout the night. The condition causes serious disruptions to sleep but, if left untreated, can lead to long term health and mental issues with an increased risk of heart disease, sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, hypertension, and depression.
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnoea include snoring or noisy breathing, disturbed sleep with waking throughout the night, daytime fatigue and lack of concentration. Obstructive sleep apnoea can affect adults and children. With children, it has been associated with enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and those with an underdeveloped lower jaw (micrognathia).
Assessment of obstructive sleep apnoea can be made by a Specialist in Sleep Medicine or your Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon. The patient should spend a night in a sleep laboratory for evaluation as well as x-ray examination and evaluation by an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon to determine the level and extent of the obstruction. The obstruction is typically caused by the tongue, soft palate, enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
OSA is commonly treated with conservative strategies such as weight loss, reduction in alcohol intake, mandibular repositioning splints or a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to use at night. Surgical approaches can be undertaken in patients that fail to respond to these conservative measures or patients that cannot cope with a CPAP machine during the night.
Your Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon may suggest surgery to remove excess tissue from the soft palate or the tongue, or surgery to move the tongue forward, such as a chin advancement. Complicated procedures such as bi-maxillary surgery to move the lower and upper jaws forward may be required as a last resort but could be very effective to clear the airways in the posterior nasal and tongue base regions.