Surgery for Snoring

Thyroid surgery can reduce severe sleep apnea

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Snoring is not only disruptive to a person's sleep - and his or her partner's as well. It is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious condition which can increase a person's risk of death.

OSA is caused by a blockage of the airways while sleeping, and affects about 20 percent of the population. An enlarged thyroid gland could be a culprit, and surgery could reduce both snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.

"Ask your doctor about surgery for severe snoring."

An enlarged thyroid gland, also called a goiter, compresses the airway and cause or worsen sleep apnea and snoring. Alexandra Reiher, MD, and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin conducted a study to evaluate just what a goiter's impact is on OSA. By assessing OSA symptoms such as snoring, both before and after a thyroidectomy to remove all or part of an enlarged thyroid gland, researchers found that significantly fewer patients were at high risk for OSA after the surgery.

Patients who reported symptoms of OSA (including snoring) were asked to complete a questionnaire before and eight weeks after undergoing thyroidectomy. Results showed that after the surgery, only 51 percent of patients were at high risk for OSA, compared to 71 percent of people without surgery. The post-surgery patients also reported a significant decrease in snoring frequency and how much their snoring bothered others.

"Obstructive sleep apnea is obviously a complex problem with numerous causes, but we find it encouraging that thyroidectomy alone can provide significant improvements in nearly a third of patients, regardless of gland size," said study author Rebecca Sippel, MD. Based on the study results, researchers suggest that physicians should include an assessment for goiter when evaluating patients with sleep apnea.

The findings were presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association in October 2011.

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Review Date: 
October 31, 2011
Last Updated:
November 6, 2011