What is the Pillar Procedure?
The Pillar Procedure is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It involves the insertion of small polyester rods, called “pillars,” into the soft palate at the back of the throat. These pillars help to stiffen the tissue in the soft palate, reducing its tendency to vibrate and causing snoring. In addition, the stiffened tissue helps to prevent collapse of the airway during sleep, reducing the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea events. The procedure is usually performed in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia and takes about 20 minutes to complete. It has been shown to be effective in reducing snoring and improving sleep quality in many patients.
Causes of Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring is usually caused by the vibration of the soft tissues in the back of the throat and the mouth. When we sleep, the muscles that support these tissues relax, causing them to narrow and vibrate as air passes through them. Factors that can contribute to snoring include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Alcohol consumption
- Nasal congestion
- Sleeping position
Obstructive sleep apnea, on the other hand, is caused by a complete or partial blockage of the airway during sleep. This blockage can be caused by several factors, including:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Anatomical abnormalities such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a small jaw
- Muscle weakness in the throat and tongue
- Alcohol or sedative use
How the Pillar procedure works
Here’s how the procedure works:
- Evaluation: The patient is first evaluated by a sleep specialist to determine if the Pillar Procedure is an appropriate treatment option. The specialist may perform a sleep study to diagnose the severity of the snoring or OSA.
- Preparation: On the day of the procedure, the patient is given a local anesthetic to numb the area at the back of the throat. A small flexible scope may also be inserted through the nose to help guide the placement of the Pillar implants.
- Implant Placement: Three to five small, polyester rods (called “pillars”) are inserted into the soft palate tissue using a special delivery tool. The Pillar implants are designed to provide support and stiffen the soft palate tissue, reducing its tendency to vibrate and cause snoring.
- Recovery: The procedure takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete, and patients can usually go home shortly after the procedure. The patient may experience mild discomfort or a sore throat for a few days, but this can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Follow-Up: The patient will have a follow-up appointment with the sleep specialist to assess the effectiveness of the procedure. It may take a few weeks or months for the full effects of the Pillar Procedure to be realized.
Benefits and results of the Pillar procedure
Here are some of the benefits and results of the procedure:
- Improved Sleep Quality: One of the primary benefits of the Pillar Procedure is improved sleep quality. By reducing snoring and the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea events, patients can experience a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling more rested.
- Minimally Invasive: The Pillar Procedure is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Compared to other surgical treatments for snoring and OSA, the Pillar Procedure is relatively simple and has a low risk of complications.
- Quick Recovery: Because the procedure is minimally invasive, patients typically experience a quick recovery time. Most patients are able to return to their normal activities within a few days of the procedure.
- Long-Term Results: The Pillar implants are designed to be a permanent solution for snoring and mild to moderate OSA. While the effects of the procedure may take a few weeks or months to fully realize, many patients experience long-term benefits.
- Improved Quality of Life: By improving sleep quality, reducing daytime sleepiness, and improving overall well-being, the Pillar Procedure can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
Risks of the Pillar Procedure
The Pillar Procedure is generally considered to be safe and effective, but like any surgical procedure, it does carry some risks. Here are some of the potential risks of the Pillar Procedure:
- Sore Throat: It’s common to experience a sore throat or discomfort for a few days following the procedure. This can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Infection: Any surgical procedure carries a risk of infection. However, the risk of infection with the Pillar Procedure is low.
- Implant Displacement: There is a small risk that the Pillar implants may become displaced or dislodged following the procedure. This can usually be corrected with a simple outpatient procedure.
- Palate Perforation: In rare cases, the Pillar implants can cause a perforation in the soft palate tissue. This can result in complications such as bleeding, infection, and scarring.
- No Improvement: While the Pillar Procedure has been shown to be effective in many patients, there is a small percentage of individuals who may not experience any improvement in their snoring or obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.