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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK


Surgeon hails snoring cure

The operation is less invasive than traditional surgery

An operation to cure snoring is to be made widely available to the public in the UK for the first time.

The surgical procedure, known as a somnoplasty, has been clinically trialed in the UK by the ear, nose and throat consultant Mr David Morgan.

Tomorrow's World follows Glen Williams through surgery
The procedure, featured on Tomorrow's World on Wednesday, will offered as a cure for snoring by the Birmingham Nuffield Hospital under its Snoring Solutions programme.

Somnoplasty works by heating the tissues of the soft palate to around 80 degrees centigrade using radio energy.

There are four main factors which are thought to cause snoring:

  • A medical condition called sleep apnoea which causes disturbed breathing in sufferers
  • Being overweight
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Slack muscles at the back of the throat

Somnoplasty is a cure for those who suffer from slack throat musculature.

[ image: Mr David Morgan says the procedure could become the norm]
Mr David Morgan says the procedure could become the norm
It is only considered after a patient has been studied while asleep to ascertain the cause of the snoring.

Somnoplasty takes up to 30 minutes under local or general anaesthesia and delivers low power, low temperature radio frequency energy to the tissue beneath the surface of the soft palate.

Over the next four to six weeks the treated tissue reduces in volume as the heated cells die and are removed by the immune sysem.

Mr David Morgan says what is different about the new technique
As a result the soft palate retracts and stiffens, creating better definition and thus inhibiting snoring.

Mr Morgan believes somnoplasty will prove a better alternative to the traditional treatment, laser uvolopapalatoplasty.

[ image: Doctors film patients' sleeping habits]
Doctors film patients' sleeping habits
This involves heating the palate to 200 degrees centigrade, with severe post operative pain potentially lasting some weeks.

While uvolopapalatoplasty actually burns the skin of the soft palate, somnoplasty heats only the surrounding tissue and causes only minor discomfort.

However, Mr Morgan warned that surgery should only be considered as a last resort.

He said: "There are several things you can do before that. The most important thing being losing weight, the other factors that are important are stopping smoking and also stopping drinking alcohol prior to going to bed at night."

Quality of life impaired

The first patient to receive the treatment at the Nuffield Hospital will be Glen Williams.

[ image: Glen Williams has tried various treatments - including nose clips - in the past]
Glen Williams has tried various treatments - including nose clips - in the past
He said: "My quality of life is impaired by my snoring.

"My wife, Dawn, says that I am impossible to ignore in bed, but for the wrong reasons.

"She used to wake me up and banish me to the spare room because my snoring was too loud, but now I wake myself up with it and just go without being asked."

Around 3.5 million people in the UK are estimated to snore, including more than one million women.

Snorers who wake themselves up with the noise sleep only an average of four hours a night.

Snorers can generate a noise of 90 decibels.

Somnoplasty is featured on Tomorrow's World, broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 22 April. 19 00 BST.

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