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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 February, 2004, 00:01 GMT
Surgery 'corrects sleep disorder'
sleeping man
Sleep disorders are on the increase
A relatively limited form of throat surgery may be more effective at correcting a common sleep disorder than more invasive alternatives.

Researchers from Taipei's Chang Gung Memorial Hospital achieved an 82% success rate when they operated on sleep apnoea patients.

The research, which was only based on 55 patients, is published in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology.

However, UK experts have expressed doubts about the study's validity.

Sleep apnoea causes snoring and interruptions in breathing.

This forces the sufferer to wake up in order to start breathing again. Sometimes this can happen up to 100 times a night.

Standard surgery for severe sleep apnoea involves removing some of the tissue in the throat to widen the airway. However, it usually only works in about half of cases.

The new technique - called uvulopalatal flap surgery - removes fatty tissues, soft glands and the tonsils to increase airway space, but spares muscle tissue.

Patients who had the surgery said they snored less, were less sleepy during the day and had higher oxygen levels in their blood.

It is unclear why the new operation should work better.

Alternative treatment

Frank Govan, chairman of the UK Sleep Apnoea Trust, told BBC News Online he would not recommend anybody to have surgery.

"There is a tendency to recommend surgery, but I would not go anywhere near it," he said.

"I have talked to any number of people who have been damaged by it."

Mr Govan said a technique called continuous positive airway pressure was a far more effective way to treat sleep apnoea.

This is involves wearing a mask which blows air under pressure up the nose, down the airways and out of the mouth to keep the airways open.

Marianne Davey, of the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, raised questions about the criteria for success and how results were interpreted.

She said the findings indicated that in some instances, patients merely registered an improvement in their symptoms, rather than a cure.

She said no long-term follow up had been carried out, and it was possible that after one or two years, the patients' symptoms may be as bad as before surgery

She told BBC News Online: "In my experience, patients put themselves forward for surgery in order to eliminate sleep apnoea and not just to reduce it.

"I would not recommend sleep apnoea patients to undertake this operation without the recommendation of a specialist in sleep disordered medicine, and only then if the surgeon can demonstrate considerable effectiveness two years following surgery."




SEE ALSO:
Sleep disorder 'damages brain'
04 Sep 03  |  Health


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