Skip to content

This information was reviewed and approved by Sheila Tsai, MD (3/1/2017).

For some people, surgery may help improve sleep apnea, depending on the structure of the upper airway.

The main objective of surgery is to make breathing easier by increasing the size of the upper airway. A deviated nasal septum may be fixed, or enlarged adenoids or tonsils may be removed. Removal of adenoids and tonsils is the most common treatment for children with OSA.

More extensive surgery can also be performed, such as remodeling the air passages in the throat by removing the uvula, tonsils and part of the soft palate (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty). If no other treatment works, another surgical option includes making an opening in the throat to bypass the upper airway (tracheostomy). Air passes through a tube inserted in the opening and into the lungs. When this operation is performed for OSA, the person with obstructive sleep apnea keeps the tube covered during the day and opens it at night so air can flow freely during sleep.

Other possible surgeries include jaw remodeling or surgery for obesity, such as gastric bypass surgery.
Recently, an implantable device has been approved for treatment of sleep apnea in those adults intolerant to PAP therapy.

Your doctor will help you decide if surgery is an option for you.

For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.