Minimally Invasive Pillar Procedure Treats Snoring Problems And Sleep Apnea Symptoms Effectively

Written by Manny Erlich on July 23, 2012. Posted in Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Treatments, Snoring 101

A snoring problem is annoying, but even worse, its associated with serious health risks.

The good news is that snoring is treatable. While many treatment options are available, surgery is often considered a last resort. However, one form of surgery, the Pillar Procedure is a minimally non-invasive technique used to treat snoring problems as well as mild to moderate sleep apnea symptoms. It’s quick – 20 minutes or less, can be done in a doctor or dentist’s office and you can usually resume your normal activities the same day.

What Is It?

The Pillar Procedure received FDA approval in 2004. Approximately 45,000 people have received this treatment. First, let’s take a quick look at what causes snoring to understand how the Pillar Procedure works. When you breathe in, air passes along the soft palate at the back of your mouth. If the muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue and throat begin to relax, the airway becomes obstructed. As the airway becomes narrower, the airflow becomes more forceful and results in the vibration of tissues that causes snoring.

Surgery is usually considered for only more severe snoring problems and sleep apnea symptoms– and only after other treatments have failed. However, the Pillar Procedure is a minor surgical procedure whereby three tiny polyester rods are placed into the soft palate. The procedure is usually done by an ENT physician (ear, nose and throat), trained dentist or an oral maxillofacial surgeon. These three implants help to stiffen and add structural support to the palate to keep it from relaxing during sleep. This helps to reduce blockage and keep the airways open. The implants are woven from polyester material used in medical products for over 50 years. It’s the same material often used for heart repairs and stomach surgery, as well as other medical procedures.

Will It Help Stop My Sleep Apnea and Snoring Problem?

The Pillar Procedure is clinically proven. Patients who have had the procedure have experienced a significant decrease in snoring intensity. Additionally, bed partner satisfaction with snoring reduction has been documented at 80% or higher. And approximately 80% of patients demonstrated a reduction in their sleep apnea hypopnea index (AHI measures rate of cessation of breathing or shallow/slow breathing).

Because it takes time for the tissue around the implants to stiffen, some patients will see a noticeable difference within weeks, while others may take 8 to 12 weeks to realize the full benefit.

Keep in mind that while the Pillar Procedure might do the trick, depending upon your results and if there are any residual sleep apnea symptoms your doctor may still suggest a combination of other treatments such as CPAP. While CPAP remains the gold standard in treating snoring and sleep apnea symptoms, many who use it are non-compliant. Consult with your doctor about the Pillar Procedure and whether it might be the right approach for you.

What Can I Expect From the Pillar Procedure?

The Pillar Procedure can be done by an ENT physician, dentist or an oral surgeon in the office in 20 minutes or less. It does not require a hospital stay like some other surgical treatments that have longer recovery times and are more painful. A local anesthetic is applied to numb the palate or roof of the mouth before the implants are inserted. The patient remains awake during the procedure.

After the procedure, patients can usually resume their normal activities and diet – often the day of the surgery. Once the anesthetic wears off a small percentage of patients report feeling a minor “foreign body sensation” in their mouth. However, this is only temporary and should go away within a few days after the procedure. Typically, the procedure only causes minimal discomfort and recovery time is short. Most of the time, pain and swelling are minimal as well.

The Pillar Procedure is still relatively new, although it was in use even prior to receiving FDA approval. It’s easy to find a doctor that will perform the surgery. It has become a more common procedure and can be very effective in treating snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. Patients also benefit from its minimally invasive nature and quick recovery times. Consult with your doctor or dentist about the Pillar Procedure and other treatments that might be right for you.

To learn about another snoring surgery, visit our article about TORS (Trans Oral Robotic Surgery).

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Manny Erlich

International Foundation of Employee Benefits - Certified Employee Benefits Specialist