For a lot of sleep apnea sufferers, the airway passage becomes obstructed or collapsed because of the tongue. Therefore, in some cases, the tongue plays a critical role in the cause and treatment options of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Specifically, for those who suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea, the base of the tongue may become one of the prime focus areas to treat. In such cases, the base of the tongue may be larger than normal.
Treating the base of the tongue can decrease OSA symptoms and help patients find relief. One technique we are going to discuss, called submucosal radiofrequency tongue base ablation, addresses the base of the tongue to promote OSA relief and to pose as a viable treatment option for OSA.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology— Head and Neck Surgery says that submucosal radiofrequency tongue base ablation can be a viable, safe treatment option for adults suffering from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Actually, it has been used over the past fifteen or more years to treat OSA.
Submucosal radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is oftentimes a part of multilevel surgical therapy for OSA sufferers. Since RFA is completed on a multilevel basis, other OSA treatment options or surgeries are used in conjunction with RFA.
The procedure has proven its effectiveness for mild to moderate sleep apnea patients who are not morbidly obese and who suffer from airway obstruction due to a large tongue base. It has relatively low failure rates, as well.
The RFA procedure is effective because the dysfunctional tissue is removed (ablated) in order to treat OSA. This results in minimized airway obstruction, allowing easier, less obstructed breathing.
The radio frequency ablation of the tongue procedure is completed on an outpatient basis. Local anesthetics or other forms of sedation are typically utilized.
The RFA method is quick (typically about 3-5 minutes) and uses a series of puncture wounds located at the base of the tongue. Patients experience a low level of pain, though, when compared to other types of sleep apnea surgery.
The radio frequency ablation of the tongue procedure can be completed many times throughout a person’s OSA journey. Repetitive procedures sometimes are not needed, but the option is there. Actually, RFA is designed to be completed over a series of up to five or more treatments to successfully treat OSA.
The first prime benefit of RFA— it does not require a high temperature to be effective. In fact, low frequency radio waves, which causes a minimal amount of heat, are used during the RFA procedure.
The second prime benefit of RFA— it is designed to effectively treat the targeted tissue, rather than causing tissue damage to surrounding areas. It is very important that doctors treat only the targeted tissue since, oftentimes, many critical blood vessels and nerves are located in close proximity.
Submucosal radiofrequency tongue base ablation is just one of the many tongue procedures or surgeries that can treat mild to moderate OSA.
Other hypopharyngeal/tongue procedures (in addition to RFA) include:
If oral appliance therapy or CPAP therapy (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) are not the best treatment routes to treat your OSA condition, you may find success and relief in other sleep apnea surgeries or in any of the previously mentioned tongue procedures.
Actually, several studies (Ceylan, 2009) suggest RFA as the primary treatment for mild to moderate OSA, and showed similar effectiveness when comparing results from CPAP therapy and RFA.
In order to perform the submucosal radiofrequency tongue base ablation procedure, thorough knowledge of the tongue anatomy (and relevant structures in the mouth regions including the hypoglossal nerve and the lingual artery neurovascular bundle) is critical for success.
Our doctors at Northeast Atlanta ENT are trained and educated to successfully perform RFA. During the procedure, we address the tongue base through three mechanisms:
Focusing on these three prime mechanisms allows our doctors to perform the RFA procedure with precision and success.