How Radiofrequency Ablation Works to Treat Sleep Apnea

If you’ve undergone a sleep study and have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you’re looking for solutions. Untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease and an increased chance of accidents from sleepiness when you should be alert — for example, when you’re driving.

Broward ENT Services offers a minimally invasive in-office treatment called radiofrequency ablation that treats sleep apnea effectively. With this procedure, you avoid painful surgery with longer recovery times.

What happens during a radiofrequency ablation procedure?

Radiofrequency ablation uses electromagnetic, or radio wave, energy to shrink the size of your tongue so it doesn’t obstruct your airway while you’re asleep. Radio waves are naturally occurring energy — for example, the sun produces radiofrequency energy.

Your physician directs a device emitting radiofrequency waves to the part of your tongue nearest your throat for between two and five minutes. The device doesn’t touch you, but the energy cauterizes part of your tongue safely. The procedure is computer-controlled so it doesn’t burn or hurt you.

Radiofrequency ablation does require a number of in-office treatments, but scheduling several quick appointments is a lot easier than undergoing surgical options to treat sleep apnea.

What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation for sleep apnea?

This procedure provides several benefits versus other available treatments.

Local, not general, anesthesia  

You receive local anesthesia to avoid any discomfort during the radiofrequency ablation procedure, but you’re not knocked out. You can drive immediately afterward and resume your normal daily routine. Surgical procedures to aid sleep apnea, such as removing tissue in the throat, usually require general anesthesia, which can have side effects, especially on older adults.

No surgery

Radiofrequency ablation is noninvasive; there’s no surgery. Your recovery is fast; your tongue heals in a few days. A more invasive surgery always carries risks and involves pain, and surgery recovery can take several weeks.

Tongue reduction for unobstructed breathing

The tissue at the back of your tongue is reduced by radiofrequency ablation, so your airway is no longer obstructed when you’re sleeping at night.

No mouthguard

You may not need a mouthguard after radiofrequency ablation if your sleep apnea is mild or moderate. Mouthguards take time to get used to. For a good fit, they should be custom-made.

How effective is radiofrequency ablation treatment?

Peer-reviewed journal articles published by the National Institutes of Health concludes that radiofrequency ablation appears to be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

What sleep apnea symptoms improve after radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation treatment improves the common symptoms of sleep apnea:

It also has a positive effect on your health; sleep apnea treatment decreases the risk of heart disease and other related health complications, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, and depression.

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea or if you suspect you have it, call Broward ENT Services or book an appointment on our website for the most effective, up-to-date treatment.

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