Tell us about your history with sleep apnea and other treatments you tried.
- I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in the 90s. I was able to successfully use CPAP for over 10 years. However, I slowly developed a dryness condition that made the CPAP machine too painful to use. I was recommended to try the Inspire technique where electrical impulses are used to keep the tongue from falling back and causing sleep apnea. But testing for that proved that the device wouldn’t be sufficient to stop my sleep apnea.
What made you consider the AIRLIFT procedure?
- I have known people who had sleep apnea where CPAP didn’t work for them. I knew one person in particular who did have a surgery, although not this one, that she said really helped her. It was my physician who advised me that with my history of apnea this procedure was critical to overcoming sleep apnea. He said I needed both procedures, the AIRLIFT and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).
How would you describe the surgical experience, procedure and recovery? Did you have other procedures along with AIRLIFT?
- My AIRLIFT procedure was done along with the UPPP procedure. The doctor explained that both the uvula area as well as the lower area with the tongue etc. was all working to block my airflow during an apnea episode. That was evaluated in an outpatient procedure that went smoothly. Both areas needed addressed.
I am not going to kid you, the surgery was difficult. Not the procedure itself as I was unconscious to where I don’t remember any of that. But the surgery caused my throat to be very painful, and swallowing was difficult. They wanted me to drink water ASAP, but I found that more difficult to drink than milk, coffee drinks, Jello and smoothies. Once I started drinking those I was able to consume a lot more. And, later when I was able to start chewing food I found it more painful to swallow both because the tongue is wounded (shortened) by the procedure and the swallowing movement was changed by the procedure. But now I don’t think about swallowing at all. It took about a month for my throat and swallowing to become close to normal, and months to get it where it was as before the surgery.
Do you believe this surgery has been effective for you? If so, in what ways and how soon could you tell after the surgery that it was working?
- Yes, the surgery was extremely effective. I could tell within days, as a matter of fact, because I had had such a problem sleeping on my back before the surgery. A few days after the surgery I realized that I was falling asleep sometimes on my back. That had been so hard for me to do previously. I was staying asleep on my back too. I saw continuous improvement as the swelling in my throat went down. By a couple of weeks after the surgery it just felt like there was a lot more room for me to breathe in there.
I was telling people well before my sleep study that my sleep apnea was a lot better. The sleep study results were that my sleep apnea episodes were below the threshold for sleep apnea diagnosis. That means this surgery cured my sleep apnea! I sleep better during the night and my sleepiness during the day is improved.
Are you glad you had the procedure? Would you recommend this procedure for others suffering from sleep apnea?
- Yes I would recommend of this procedure for anyone that can’t find a less invasive solution. Without a doubt it is a painful procedure with a long recovery but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
What advice would you give to others about surgery that have sleep apnea and can’t use CPAP or other treatments?
- I’m not kidding you, this is major surgery. But sleep apnea is a major disturbance in a person’s life. And sleep apnea has been found to be a contributor to so many other ailments like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and so on. That alone should motivate anyone to do whatever it takes to correct this condition. But that aside, how long do you want to try to sleep without getting better sleep? How long do you want to keep going through days feeling like you could fall asleep any time? There is nothing like being able to fall asleep and then sleep a long time, and wake up breathing easily, and then not being so sleepy during the day.