UPPP Surgery

How a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty Procedure Can Help Sleep Apnea

a man's throat

 Jan Otto/Getty Images

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 C-PAP. 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.

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.

Bottom Line

Before having UPPP, you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of having a "toned down" version of this surgery. For example, removing the tonsils and adenoids has been considered helpful in treating snoring and sleep apnea, as has uvulectomy.

Keep in mind, however, that any surgery used to treat sleep apnea has not been well-studied long term, and there is no guarantee that surgery will cure your problem or that you will not have to use a C-PAP after the surgery.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  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. Updated June 9, 2019.

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

  6. MedlinePlus. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). Updated May 22, 2019.

  7. Reckley LK, Fernandez-salvador C, Camacho M. The effect of tonsillectomy on obstructive sleep apnea: an overview of systematic reviews. Nat Sci Sleep. 2018;10:105-110. doi:10.2147/NSS.S127816

  8. Caples SM, Rowley JA, Prinsell JR, et al. Surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep. 2010;33(10):1396-407. doi:10.1093/sleep/33.10.1396

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