UPPP Surgery

How a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty Procedure Can Help Sleep Apnea

UPPP is a medical abbreviation for uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, a surgery that involves removing the soft tissue at the back of the throat, including the uvula, soft palate, and sometimes additional soft tissue at the back of the throat.

A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are sometimes performed at the same time. This surgery is aimed at treating obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where these structures can block the airway and cause cessation of breathing while you are asleep.

Due to potential complications involved in this surgery, most doctors recommend other treatment measures for sleep apnea, particularly continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Additionally, UPPP sometimes will not completely cure the sleep apnea. If other treatment measures fail, a UPPP may be recommended. However, the success rate of this surgery is highly variable and depends upon factors such as the patient's BMI and anatomical characteristics.

a man's throat
 Jan Otto / Getty Images

Complications and Recovery

Complications of the surgery are similar to any procedure under anesthesia and also include bleeding, infection, difficulty swallowing after the surgery, a decreased sense of smell, and voice changes.

These risks and the benefit of potentially curing obstructive sleep apnea must be carefully considered. Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can itself cause potentially life-threatening complications.

Most sources claim that the recovery time of this surgery is about 2 to 3 weeks or more and that the surgery can be rather painful. This information may not be particularly helpful when considering UPPP, however, because every person's recovery time and perception of pain will vary.

6 Sources
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  1. Browaldh N, Nerfeldt P, Lysdahl M, Bring J, Friberg D. SKUP3 randomised controlled trial: polysomnographic results after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty in selected patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Thorax. 2013;68(9):846-53. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-202610

  2. Spicuzza L, Caruso D, Di Maria G. Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and its management. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2015;6(5):273-85. doi:10.1177/2040622315590318

  3. Carvalho B, Hsia J, Capasso R. Surgical therapy of obstructive sleep apnea: a review. Neurotherapeutics. 2012;9(4):710-6. doi:10.1007/s13311-012-0141-x

  4. University of Wisconsin Health. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for obstructive sleep apnea.

  5. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sleep apnea.

  6. MedlinePlus. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).

Additional Reading
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Obstructive Sleep Apnea - Surgery.

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.