The Pillar Procedure: Your First Step for Sleeping and Feeling Better

If your snoring has become a problem for you and your partner, the pillar procedure is a treatment option to consider. It is a minor surgery under local anesthesia that is performed in the doctor’s office. This procedure has been proven to effectively treat habitual snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

How It Works

The pillar procedure reduces the muscle relaxation that occurs during sleep. When you sleep, the muscles in the soft palate (fleshy area at the back of the mouth), tongue and throat relax. Sometimes they relax so much that they vibrate, which causes snoring. They can also can relax too much and block the airway, causing shallow breathing or breathing pauses during sleep; this is known as sleep apnea.

What it Involves

According to the Mayo Clinic, the pillar procedure can be performed in less than 30 minutes. The doctor surgically places small polyester rods, or implants, in the soft palate. The implants are slightly less than an inch long and 1.5 millimeters in diameter.

The soft palate tissue heals around the implant, stiffening the palate and reducing tissue relaxation that occurs during sleep. You should be able to go home and resume normal activities the same day. The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory pain medication for pain and swelling. He may instruct you to use an antiseptic rinse for several days and an antibiotic to prevent infection.

The pillar procedure is a good option for people with habitual snoring or mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It is not recommended for people who are significantly overweight or obese or who have severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Risks

As with any surgical procedure, the pillar procedure does have a few minor risks. These can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Infection. Call your doctor if you develop a fever after the procedure.
  • Partial protrusion of the implant through the soft palate tissue, which would require replacing or removing the implant
  • Slightly uncomfortable sensation of having a foreign body in the soft palate
  • Sore throat

Results

Studies have shown that most patients experienced a decrease in snoring or fewer episodes of breathing pauses after undergoing the pillar procedure. Research has also shown that the procedure may not work for everyone. The pillar procedure is still a relatively new. It has not yet been determined if the implants provide long-term relief or only provides temporary relief. Consult with a qualified ENT doctor if you are considering the pillar procedure.

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