The Pillar® procedure is a minor in office procedure that is used to treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing repeatedly during the night. It typically includes loud snoring and can cause daytime sleepiness, headaches and even serious problems like heart disease. In a pillar procedure, small polyester rods are placed in the soft palate at the back of the throat, which helps stiffen the tissue as it heals.
A Pillar® procedure is typically used for two conditions. Chronic loud snoring can respond to a pillar procedure, as the snoring is often caused by vibration of the soft palate. A Pillar® procedure may also help relieve symptoms of mild to moderate sleep apnea. It is often used in combination with other treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and other treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. It is not usually recommended for severe sleep apnea or for those who are significantly overweight or obese.
A Pillar® procedure is usually performed in the doctor's office with the use of a local anesthetic. The patient is positioned leaning back in a chair – similar to the position used when dental hygienists clean teeth. After swabbing the soft palate with a topical anesthetic, the doctor will inject the area with a local anesthetic. The polyester implants are inserted into the soft palate with a special disposable tool. Patients may experience minor bleeding and swelling afterward.
Once the procedure is completed, the patient usually remains sitting for a few minutes to make sure bleeding and swelling are minimal. Most people can resume their normal activities the same day and should eat a soft diet for the next 3 to 4 days. A sore throat, difficulty swallowing and feeling of having something in the palate are common and are minor postoperative symptoms. The doctor will usually prescribe a pain medication and may also prescribe antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash. It takes several months for the full benefits of the procedure to become noticeable.
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