What is Uvulectomy?
Excision of the uvula. Also called staphylectomy. Uvulectomy is a common practice in eastern Africa for treatment of a variety of throat conditions. Uvulectomy is a traditional surgery performed on infants and children throughout Africa and in some middle Eastern countries. It is done as a traditional treatment to prevent throat infections and normally is done early in infancy or the first or second year of life. It may be done by traditional healers or by laypersons who are often barbers by profession. The procedure results in partial or complete removal of the uvula. A notch or cleft in the soft palate can be found in more extreme forms with changes in the symmetry of the arches of the palate.
Candidates for Uvulectomy
If you have an enlarged or elongated uvula (the “bell” at the back of the throat), you may be a candidate for a uvulectomy to reduce your snoring. A common source of snoring is from the fluttering of the soft palate (the soft part of the top of the mouth) as well as the uvula.
Most patients with sleep apnea are overweight and have short, thick necks. Increasing neck circumference is linearly related to the probability of OSA. Examination of the oropharynx often reveals a large uvula, a small oropharyngeal opening, a large tongue, and prominent oropharyngeal folds. Direct fiberoptic examination or indirect mirror examination may reveal a mass or tumor in the upper airway or possible deviation of the nasal septum.
The Uvulectomy Procedure
The patient can be given local anesthesia, and uvulectomy can be performed as an office procedure by using cautery or a carbon dioxide laser. In 1993, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty was first described as a procedure for individuals who snore and have mild OSA. The procedure consists of incising the inferior rim of the soft palate and uvula. The tonsils are not removed.
A person usually does not miss having the uvula. However, there is a period of one to two weeks of discomfort in the throat after the procedure. Some people require strong pain medications for several days, whereas others need only acetaminophen or an over-the-counter equivalent. Most people describe the pain as similar to a bad viral sore throat that is worst when swallowing.
You have the right to be informed that the surgery may involve risks of unsuccessful results, complications, or injury from both known and unforeseen causes. Because individuals vary in their tissue circulation and healing processes, as well as anesthetic reactions, ultimately there can be no guarantee made as to the results or potential complications. The following complications have been reported in the medical literature. This list is not meant to be inclusive of every possible complication. They are listed here for your information only, not to frighten you, but to make you aware and more knowledgeable concerning this surgical procedure.
- Failure to resolve the snoring. Most surgeons feel that about 85% of patients who undergo a LAUP will have a significant or complete resolution in their snoring; and an additional percentage of patients will notice reduced levels of snoring such that their sleep partners will report that it’s level is no longer offensive.
- Failure to cure sleep apnea or other pathological sleep disorders. Pathological sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, are medical problems which may have associated serious complications. At this time, the LAUP procedure has not been proven to cure these disorders.
- Bleeding. In very rare situations, a need for blood products or a blood transfusion. You have the right, should you choose, to have autologous or designated donor directed blood pre-arranged. You are encouraged to consult with your doctor if you are interested.
- Nasal regurgitation, a change in voice, or velopharyngeal insufficiency when liquids may flow into the nasal cavity during swallowing (rare).
- Failure to resolve coexisting sinus, tonsil, or nasal problems.
- Need for revision, or further and more aggressive surgery.
- Prolonged pain, impaired healing, and the need for hospitalization.