Obesity Boosts Complications From Sleep Apnea Surgery

Other risk factors include more severe disease, concurrent surgeries, study finds

TUESDAY, Oct. 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Sometimes sleep apnea is so severe that patients opt for surgery to correct the condition, which can trigger frequent nighttime awakenings.

Now, a new study shows that complications from these surgeries are more likely in the very overweight, those with more severe sleep apnea, and those who have other medical problems.

People with sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing during the night due to upper airway obstruction. Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and poor quality of life.

The most common kind of operation to correct sleep apnea is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), in which surgeons remove the uvula and other soft tissues at the back of the throat in order to clear the airway. About 1.6 percent of patients suffer serious complications, including 0.2 percent who die within 30 days after surgery.

This study, by a team at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at 3,130 patients (97 percent men, average age 50) who underwent UPPP between 1991 and 2001 at U.S. Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Serious complications following surgery were more likely to occur in patients who had more severe sleep apnea, higher body mass index, and those who had additional non-nasal surgeries at the same time and other medical problems. For each additional illness besides sleep apnea that a patient had, the risk for complications almost doubled, the study found.

The findings were published in the October issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sleep apnea.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Updated on October 18, 2006

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