Patient Information

Snoring is a very disruptive and common problem

It is generally made by vibration of surfaces together in the upper airway. Most snoring noise emanates from the soft palate, and is louder when the mouth is open. Other sites contributing may be the back of the tongue and the nose, and sometimes structures in the lower throat. Between 30 and 40% of the population snores, and it seems to be more common in men. As one gets older, snoring frequency and loudness increase owing to the reducing levels of "elastin" in aging tissues.

Weight gain, smoking, alcohol, sedatives, and back sleeping often worsen snoring

Some other factors are not easily solved such as small lower jaw, and some have large tonsils which may need to be removed to reduce the problem.

Bad snorers can wake very tired, or have daytime sleepiness. Snoring has also been implicated as an aggravating factor in other medical problems such as hypertension and depression. Fixing snoring does not necessarily solve these problems. Daytime sleepiness is often due to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (O.S.A.), which is suggested by an Epworth Sleepiness Score of twelve or more.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is the cessation of breathing for a variable length of time in sleep.This is caused by obstruction to the airway with the tongue, and results in falling oxygen levels. This is often associated with a number of health problems, and can be diagnosed with "Sleep Study". This condition is often the source of most concern to the partner, and may occur in as many as 10% of adults. Running out of oxygen many times a night is clearly a health risk, especially in the case of those with heart attack risk, or stroke risk. Respiratory Medical Specialists will run a "sleep study" to assess the significance of this problem. Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) is a proven and successful treatment for this. Having our snoring surgery "SnoreOp" will very often reduce the sleepiness as measured by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, meaning you can wake much more refreshed, and get much less tired during the days. An Epworth Sleepiness Score of more than twelve is likely to improve by more than seven points just by having a Snore-Op for your snoring, and we have recorded much bigger improvements in some clients.

Options for the snorer:

These are quite varied, and really depend on where the snoring originates. This is determined by the examination of a doctor experienced in this field. Doctors trained in the "Snore-Op" method have had extra training in this examination and technique. Most people who present to the doctor with snoring have tried a range of treatments with limited success. Most methods have benefit for some patients and range from throat and nose sprays, nasal splints, jaw advancements splints, to minor and major surgical corrections. The New Zealand Consumer"ran an independent comparison of methods available, in 2003. After they had reviewed all the "over the counter" methods, their comment was there is little evidence that these things work" on snoring and and then went on to describe the four operations available then, namely:

  • UvuloPharyngoPalatoPlasty (UPPP), the original palate tightening operation for snoring. This is extremely painful, requiring intensive care, intravenous feeding, and works in approximately 70% of clients only. This is a costly procedure.
  • Laser Assisted version of the above (LAUP), where a laser beam is used to burn and shrink the sides of the palate. This is also a very painful operation for snoring, but not as bad as a UPPP, and postoperative pain does not last as long. It too has about a 70% success rate in reducing snoring. It too is a costly procedure.
  • Somnoplasty: The inventors of radiofrequency operations on the palate to stop snoring. This is Americal technology. After about a year of just this one snoring procedure being available, two other companies developed their own versions of this, being another American Medical Equipment company, Ellman Surgitron, and a Swedish company with their version called "Coblation". We trialled all three methods of these radiofrequency devices, and much prefer the Ellman product. This radiofrequency method was only mentioned for completeness by the "N.Z. Consumer", as they were not aware at the time that we were doing these snoring operations here in Auckland. This is a minor procedure for snoring, is almost painless in most cases, is easily repeatable, and is an relatively much less expensive solution with a higher success rate that UPPP or LAUP.
  • Snoreplasty: where a sclerosant is injected into the soft palate, similar to what doctors do for varicose veins. This procedure was described by the Consumer maganzine as "experimental", being trialled by a few doctors in New Zealand. To the best of our knowledge, the experiment is now over, and no-one is using this as their preferred treatment for snoring.