What are the Pros and Cons of an Uvulectomy?

C.B. Fox

A uvulectomy is a procedure in which the uvula is removed from the back of the throat. It is a relatively simple procedure, often used to treat patients who snore excessively. Although the procedure does not pose many risks, it does alter the the inside of the patient's mouth permanently. For the most part, patients do not miss the presence of the uvula. In some patients, however, the procedure can prevent a person from making certain sounds and can also eliminate the gag reflex.

A patient who undergoes an uvulectomy may experience and increased risk of choking.
A patient who undergoes an uvulectomy may experience and increased risk of choking.

Most people choose to get a uvulectomy as a cosmetic surgery to relieve snoring. In many cases, this simple procedure completely cures a person of snoring, and in most other cases, it diminishes snoring considerably. As many as 85% of patients with a severe snoring problem can benefit from the procedeure. In the other 15% of patients, however, the surgery does not provide substantial relief from the condition.

An uvulectomy is a procedure in which the uvula is removed from the back of the throat.
An uvulectomy is a procedure in which the uvula is removed from the back of the throat.

One other possible benefit of a uvulectomy is that the procedure may be able to lessen the symptoms of sleep apnea. Patients with this condition have difficulty breathing while asleep, in some cases because of the presence of too much tissue in the back of the throat. The removal of the uvula and some of the tissue on the soft palate can open up the breathing passageway. A uvulectomy is not considered a cure for sleep apnea, though it can relieve some of the symptoms in certain patients.

A uvulectomy permanently alters the inside of the patient's mouth.
A uvulectomy permanently alters the inside of the patient's mouth.

Following a uvulectomy, a patient may be unable to make some sounds. Though guttural sounds, which the uvula plays a significant role in producing, are not a component of all languages, including English, some languages utilize these sounds extensively. It may be possible to retrain the mouth to compensate for the loss of the uvula, but a native speaker of languages such as French, Turkish, or the Khoisan languages may have trouble saying certain words after the uvula is removed.

Gargling with warm salt water may help ease swelling after an uvulectomy.
Gargling with warm salt water may help ease swelling after an uvulectomy.

The uvula also plays an important role in the gag reflex. A patient who has undergone a uvulectomy may have difficulty expelling foreign matter from the throat because the uvula, the body’s first defense against choking, is no longer present. Additionally, food or fluids may be more likely to enter the nasal cavity.

A patient who has undergone an uvulectomy may have difficulty expelling foreign matter from the throat.
A patient who has undergone an uvulectomy may have difficulty expelling foreign matter from the throat.

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Discussion Comments

anon961227

Yes, it will get better! I had it done and had no regrets as my snoring was an embarrassment and nobody wanted me even in the house as I could be heard all over it! The best thing I ever did was to have the surgery!

I did have to drink liquids a little slower at first to avoid choking and retrain my swallowing reflex, but after a while, I just automatically adjusted and had no further problems with it.

However, I have since learned that since I had my surgery 20 years ago, I have recently started making a snoring-like noise again when I sleep with my head flexed. I cannot make a snoring sound like before, but it is a loud nasal sound. I was told by an ENT that the surgery is only effective for about that length of time, as the pharyngeal tissues harden and swell with time and lose some of their elasticity, and they cannot be operated on again and that my problem is due to the base of my tongue being too high in the oral cavity. It is a genetic thing. All of my family snores – loudly -- but of course, most will do nothing about it! Some have gone on CPAP, however.

anon959285

I had the operation done almost 15 years ago. Every day since I have cursed the doctor who did it. It is not a good thing to do. It is nothing less than mutilation.

No doctor should be allowed to perform the procedure unless he has had his uvula removed. Only then will he understand what he is inflicting on his patients.

anon343954

I had the uvulalectomy and soft palate removed due to sleep apnea! Best decision I ever made. I sleep all night and dream for the first time in over fifteen years! A side benefit is the weight loss since I now feel energized to exercise! Recovery is painful, but temporary. I had to retrain myself how to swallow without things going through my nose. Other than that, there were very few negatives.

anon258855

My husband had the procedure done due to severe sleep apnea and terrible snoring. Now he wishes he never had the uvulevtomy done because he feels he constantly gags. He is five months post op. Does anyone know if this will ever go away or get better with time?

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