Somnoplasty (composed of the Latin root somnus meaning sleep, and the Greek word plastia meaning molding or formation) is a medical treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat three conditions: habitual snoring, chronic nasal obstruction, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) using radiofrequency ablation to shrink the tissues that are causing the problem.

Somnoplasty is typically an outpatient procedure that takes 30-45 minutes.

The patient is given a local anesthetic and a special needle-like electrode with an insulating sleeve covering all but the tip, that delivers RF energy under the surface of the tissue is used. The electrode is used to administer controlled, low-power RF energy to create coagulative (clotting) lesions, where tissue is denatured, beneath the mucosa (lining) of the targeted areas:

  • For chronic nasal obstruction, the turbinates are targeted
  • For habitual snoring, the soft palate and the uvula are targeted
  • For obstructive sleep apnea, the base of the tongue and other airway structures are targeted

Note: the actual areas targeted depends on each individual's specific anatomy, so the above are just general associations.

After 6-8 weeks the lesions are naturally resorbed as the necrotic tissue is swept away and the suface sinks to fill the void, which reduces the volume of the tissue while stiffening what remains. When this occurs the airway is enlarged, allowing a less-restricted flow of air. In addition, the scar tissue at the margins of the lesion is relatively firm, and less inclined to contribute to snoring. Several follow-up treatments are usually required to obtain the desired results. Most insurance companies do not cover somnoplasty since it is not a widely accepted treatment for sleep apnea.

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