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Procedures at Oral and Facial Surgery, Tysons Corner VA


Obstructive Sleep Apnea Procedure at Oral and Facial Surgery, Tysons Corner VA

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which a person temporarily stops breathing during the night, perhaps hundreds of times. These gaps in breathing are called apneas.

The word apnea means absence of breath. An obstructive apnea episode is defined as the absence of airflow for at least 10 seconds.

Sleep apnea is usually accompanied by snoring, disturbed sleep, and daytime sleepiness. People might not even know they have the condition.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when tissues in the upper throat relax and come together during sleep, temporarily blocking the passage of air. In general, OSA occurs as follows:

  • On its way to the lungs, air passes through the nose, mouth, and throat (the upper airway).
  • Under normal conditions, the back of the throat is soft and tends to collapse inward as a person breathes.
  • Dilator (widening) muscles work against this collapse to keep the airway open. Interference or abnormalities in this process cause air turbulence.
  • If the tissues at the back of the throat collapse and momentarily block the airway, apnea occurs. Breath is temporarily stopped. In most cases the person is unaware of it, although sometimes they awaken and gasp for breath.
  • In some cases, the interference is incomplete (called obstructive hypopnea) and causes continuous but slow and shallow breathing. In response, the throat vibrates and makes the sound of snoring. Snoring can occur whether a person breathes through the mouth or the nose. (Snoring often occurs without apnea.)
  • Apnea decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, and eventually this lack of oxygen triggers the lungs to suck in air.
  • At this point, the patient may make a gasping or snorting sound but does not usually fully wake up.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea is defined as five or more episodes of apnea or hypopnea per hour of sleep (called apnea-hypopnea index or AHI) in individuals who have excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with 15 or more episodes of apnea or hypopnea per hour of sleep are considered to have moderate sleep apnea.