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Educational Materials

Sleep apnea, Snoring

Have you ever noticed that your partner keeps waking up, has snoring like thunder and shortness of breath during sleep, and looks tired when he/she wakes up? If so, he/she may have sleep apnea. This problem bothers 4-5% of people in Hong Kong, especially the over-sized population.

Due to severe stenosis of the upper respiratory tract, the muscles in the larynx are relaxed during sleep, providing insufficient support to the respiratory tract, so the oxygen supply is hindered, affecting the brain. At that time, patients will wake up immediately to gasp for air. This cycle will keep on recurring and patients cannot get enough deep sleep.

Symptoms and effect of sleep apnea

Patients have severe snoring, suffocating during sleep and when they wake up, they may have headaches, sore throat, fatigue and poor concentration. These do not only affect their daily living, but cardiac functions as well, or even lead to a stroke.

Sleep apnea test

To diagnose sleep apnea, patients are suggested to perform sleep test in the hospital after preliminary assessment. Heart rate, brain waves and oxygen content are assessed to observe for signs of hypoxia and arrhythmia.

On the other hand, patients may have sleep endoscopy. Endoscopic examination can observe vibration and obstruction site during snoring. Based on the report, ENT doctors may suggest patients to choose the appropriate treatment for sleep apnea. Normally sleep apnea can be classified into mild, moderate and severe.

Sleep apnea treatment

Sleep apnea is caused by structural obstruction that cannot be treated by medication. Patients can only use CPAP machine to alleviate nasal congestion. However, for patients with severe sleep apnea, the upper respiratory tract is more obstructed and cannot be corrected by surgery. Therefore CPAP is a substitute of surgery. All in all, the choice of treatment depends on the result of endoscopic examination.

In general, patients are encouraged to try using the machines 2-4 weeks before actually applying the machine as they have to get to know the operation of it. Some patients may fail to adapt to the machine at the beginning.

Surgery for sleep apnea

  • Remove or tighten uvula, soft palate and tonsils using minimally invasive surgery
  • Surgeries focusing on the end of tongue which causes obstruction. As the site is close to respiratory tract, longer surgical time shall be expected.
  • General surgical complications: bleeding and wound infection

The information on this website is for general educational purpose only.
Readers should consult their physician before considering treatment, and should not interpret their condition solely based on the information above.