Nasal Airway Surgery for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Nasal breathing is critical and necessary for a healthy night's sleep. Abnormal nasal breathing and obstruction have been shown to have adverse medical and dental consequences. Nasal breathing is important to the success of any surgical or medical intervention for obstructive sleep apnea.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nasal Airway Surgery

There are several nasal procedures that can improve your nasal breathing. This includes office-based procedures for your turbinates and more complicated surgeries done under anesthesia such as septoplasty, nasal valve repair or endoscopic sinus surgery.

It is important to have a comprehensive medical evaluation to understand where your nasal breathing fits into your overall treatment plan. While some patients benefit from a nasal procedure alone, many will need to consider other interventions as well. At UChicago Medicine, we provide comprehensive care that looks at the needs of your entire airway and not just one region or area.

If you have borderline or mild obstructive sleep apnea, your physician might recommend a nasal procedure alone without further workup. Your diagnostic testing will likely include at least an office examination with an endoscopy, a CT scan of the airway and sinuses and allergy testing if necessary.

In addition, if you have significant obstructive sleep apnea, you will undergo a medical evaluation to review your past sleep study records and medical history and have a diagnostic evaluation with a drug induced sleep endoscopy.

Sometimes, the treatment includes nasal surgery while also getting a drug induced sleep endoscopy to plan for future interventions, such as an Inspire procedure.

  • Nasal airway surgery is performed under general anesthesia in the operating room.
  • The surgery involves using an endoscope or camera to look inside the nose and correct different abnormalities in the septum and sinuses.

Most patients can go home the same day, but patients with specific medical circumstances may be observed overnight in the hospital. Your care team will give you clear, detailed care instructions and an appointment will be scheduled one week after surgery.

  • You should expect to be off work for about one to two weeks and no heavy lifting or vigorous activity for two weeks.
  • During this time, you will be provided pain medication and an antibiotic.
  • You will likely have soft, plastic splints in place to support the healing tissues.
  • It is normal to ooze blood for a few days after surgery. You will receive instructions to irrigate your nose with a saline bottle to flush out any crust, mucus or other material.
  • Do not blow your nose for one to two weeks after surgery.

Additional appointments will be scheduled one month after surgery and again at three months for additional testing. Once effective treatment is confirmed, patients typically follow up once a year to ensure their sleep apnea symptoms are not returning and no new issues are arising.

Pain is usually well tolerated after this surgery and is less than a typical tonsillectomy. You will receive adequate pain medication in the postoperative period. At your one-week follow-up appointment, your physician can help you address any issues with your recovery.

The surgical changes are permanent and designed to last for years. Future trauma to the nose could potentially alter the results.

Avoid heavy lifting for two weeks after surgery to prevent complications. After that, you may return to all normal activities, including sports.

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To speak to someone directly, please call 773-702-1865. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


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