Explore this issue:November 2015
Up to a third of healthy adults snore routinely, and the condition seems to increase with age. Drs. Brietzke and O’Connor emphasized that snoring is not just a social issue—there can be real consequences even if patients don’t have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). “There is measurable mortality just from snoring,” Dr. Brietzke said. “It’s not a huge effect; it’s a small one, just barely into the measureable range. But it definitely exists.”
When a patient presents as a snorer, the first step should be to rule out OSA, which is linked to increased morbidity and mortality. There is a risk in treating the snoring without treating the underlying sleep apnea. “You might actually take away that warning signal,” Dr. Brietzke said.
Treating Palatal Flutter
Palatal flutter, the vibration of soft tissue in the throat, represents 80% to 85% of all socially bothersome snoring. The concept behind all of the procedures for treating this condition is to stiffen the palate by causing scar tissue to form.
All procedures used to treat palatal flutter—uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), cautery-assisted palatal stiffening operation (CAPSO), snoreplasty, and palatal implants—offer a success rate of approximately 80%. So, rather than trying to determine which treatment works better, physicians should use other factors—such as cost, access, and uvula size—to settle on the right one.
Asking patients about the use of their voices is an important step to take before performing a procedure, Dr. O’Connor said. His sister-in-law, for instance, was an opera singer who will not allow him to perform a procedure because she worries it will change her voice acoustics. “I always ask my patients about their voice,” he said.
The Pang-Rotenburg sign, which helps to determine whether palatal flutter is happening by asking patients to make snoring sounds with their mouths closed—can be useful in predicting how well surgery is likely to work (Laryngoscope. [Published online ahead of print May 20, 2015]. doi: 10.1002/lary.25392). Both Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Brietzke also emphasized the importance of assessing the role of the uvula in snoring and correcting a problem if one exists, a concept that has gained wider acceptance in recent years. “If there’s a big beefy uvula there and you don’t do anything with it, you’re going to lose success,” Dr. Brietzke said.