If noticed inside the throat, one can see the little hanging thing (a bell-shaped organ) in the back of the throat. This part is known as “uvula”. In some people while they are sleeping, the uvula waves around producing the snoring sound. Occasionally, these patients may complain of a mild sore throat in the morning and there is a chance the uvula may be slightly swollen too. Eliminating the uvula surgically is known as “Uvulectomy”. Uvulectomy is preformed to reduce snoring and in combination with other procedures to improve obstructive sleep apnea. People who have enlarged or elongated uvula, may be subjected for an uvulectomy to minimize snoring as the frequent source of snoring is from the flapping of the uvula.
The ideal patient who will be benefited from this procedure is someone who snores primarily due to uvula and palatal vibration and does not have a bad choke reaction. A simple way to find out whether the uvula/palate is the major offender in a patient's snore is by making that particular person to mimic the snore while the palate is inspected. This is made possible with the help of the patient’s partner. The partner is asked to copy the snore of the patient. As soon as the snore is duplicated, a procedure called “fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy” is carried out and if the uvula and soft palate is predicted to be shaking or vibrating, then uvulectomy may be of a great advantage for that specific patient. In addition to that, if the uvula is more than 1 cm in length and the tip of the uvula is rounded or the end of uvula looked like a needle, uvulectomy is performed.
Uvulectomy is carried out individually or in association with other palatal procedures like Pillar Procedure, Radiofrequency of soft palate, Palatoplasty (Laser Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty - LAUP) to minimize snoring. This is an out patient procedure and carried out in the under local anesthesia at the surgical center under sedation. Some surgery institutes wish to use laser in performing uvulectomy (LAUP). Patients who have mild sleep apnea will undergo surgical trimming of the soft palate, while a part of the uvula is left whole, since this structure of the throat helps in swallowing saliva, food and water, assist in speech, and also for maintaining the back of the throat moist and damp. When the whole uvula is removed surgically, patients will have a dry throat or a ball in back of the throat. With this method, symptoms associated with snoring are improved up to 75-85 percent, whereas apnea may improve in roughly 50 percent of patients.
Usually, it takes about two weeks to completely heal.
Even though, in western medicine, uvulectomy is an effectual treatment for snoring, in some parts of the world, uvulectomy may be used as part of traditional medicine. Traditional medical systems are not hygienic and are mostly based on customs. Mainly there is great concern about this surgery when applied to treat sore throat since sore throat may be due to bacterial infection. These traditional healing treatments are very dangerous as well. Also, uvulectomy is thought to be an unnecessary surgical procedure by some people, in spite of no side-effects that are experienced from the surgery.