Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software What is the Pillar Procedure?Sleep Source

What is the Pillar Procedure?

Posted On March 8, 2014
March 08, 2014

Rat-a-tat-tat! Like a jackhammer! Deafening roar like a rocket ship taking off into space! On any given night, your snoring can run the gamut of these sounds. What can you do to stop snoring?  You are willing to try anything so that you are not forced to sleep on the couch in the family room night after night. If this scenario describes your life, your snoring might be relieved by the pillar procedure.

Snoring is the sound that occurs due to the vibration of tissue usually in the vicinity of the soft palate. Typically the sound is an associated symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is described as pauses in breathing while an individual sleeps.

The pillar procedure is a minor surgery performed to lessen the severity of snoring and can help treat mild to moderate sleep apnea when the cause is determined to be the soft palate. Performed in a doctor’s office using local anesthesia, up to five 18 millimeter polyester rods—with a 1.5 millimeter diameter—are implanted in the soft palate. The rods are inserted using a device that looks somewhat like a large needle. During the healing process, the tissue around each of the implants causes stiffening and support of the soft palate, and thus reduces the vibration, which results in a lower incidence of snoring.

Does the Pillar Procedure Work?

A couple of weeks following the pillar procedure, patients have reported that they notice an improvement in their snoring. For others, the benefits are not complete for up to 3 months.

According to the company that makes the implants, the pillar procedure has been shown to:

  • Increase bed partner satisfaction
  • Significantly decrease patients’ snoring intensity
  • Have little downtime. Shortly after the procedure patients have the ability to return to normal activities

There are few side effects for the pillar procedure other than no effect in reducing snoring and a 5 to 10 percent incidence of the implant pushing out through the soft palate.

What Does the Research Say about the Pillar Procedure?

After the introduction of the pillar procedure in 2003, a study published 3 years later in the Journal of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery looked at its success rate in treatment of snoring. The group determined an objective success rate of 46.7 percent when the pillar procedure was paired with a nasal procedure, which helped treat both snoring and sleep apnea.

After following patients for 18 months, another research team published their data in Laryngoscope in 2009. Their results showed that when the pillar procedure was performed, snoring incidence was reduced by 53 percent with a patient satisfaction of 80 percent.

Additionally, at the current time, the pillar procedure is considered an unproven surgical treatment option for OSA by some insurance companies and so not approved for coverage. In fact, according the UnitedHealthcare, the benefits are small and that average OSA worsened despite treatment with the pillar procedure.

If you snore and have trouble sleeping, contact one of our medical concierges today to discover the best treatment option for you at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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