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Question 59- What is recuperation time for UPPP plus a tongue reduction?

From: BD

Hi Doctor;

I had uppp and base tongue reduction surgery 8 weeks ago. Since the first night in the hospital I've experienced choking as soon as I drifted off to sleep. Sleep apnea has been severe to the point that,due to lack of sleep, I collapsed on the floor at work with an anxiety attack and now have taken a disability leave.

They got me an auto titration cpap for now until I can get in for another sleep study. It's better than nothing but doesn't seem to be working. I wake up about every two hours. The strange thing to me is that with minimal effort I can breath in and completely close off my airway, Even while I'm awake. My surgeon looked me over and says everything looks well and he sees no signs of any complications.

I didn't mention to him about being able to minimally breath in and close my airway. It feels like my tongue is rubbing on the edge of where the palate is, right where the tongue enters the throat. I used a mirror and looked in there and it looks to me like when I inhale the roof of the mouth where the tongue passes into my throat is pulling down and I think that is what is closing my airway. Its been 8 weeks since the surgery.

Here is a list of things I'm experiencing...difficulty speaking, have to speak slowly to form my words and it is painfull to speak loudly as when ordering from a fast food terminal. painfull to yawn, feel like something is stuck in my throat all the time, painfull to swallow, dry throat with occasional dry cough and burning, constant steady pain in the back of my throat. when I slide my tongue from side to side it feels like its rubbing on the opening where it goes down the throat and feels very uncomfortable, Wake up every hour or two.

The problem I'm having now is that I see a psychiatrist and have a history of depression and anxiety. All the doctors involved think that I'm just having worry and panic over nothing and this is all in my head. my family feels the same. The ENT seems like he just wants to brush me off because I've called him a dozen times the last couple weeks .I feel like this surgery has went terribly wrong and don't know what to do now. My psychiatrist is trying to put me on high potency anti- anxiety medication that from my perspective is only making things worse. The more sedated I am the more messed up I feel when I wake up.

I guess my question is..How long does it usually take to heal up from UPPP and base tongue reduction? Is it normal to still be having all this pain after 8 weeks? Do these sound like typical post surgery problems that will go away in a few more months? I know the paperwork I signed for the surgery said all these things could happen and I feel like I've totally screwed up my life now. I don't know what to do...All I do now is sit around and worry and am making myself sick. I do not have caring family and no friends and feel like I don't know which way to turn and am sinking into a hole from this.


Response Provided by Dr. Kasey Li
June. 27, 2010

I am sorry to hear about your experience. I would encourage you to wait another few weeks before throwing in the towel. The healing process and the airway response to surgery can be very different between individuals. However, it is possible for the airway to respond unfavorably to UPPP surgery and sleep apnea can be worsened afterwards. If you continue to feel this way, a follow up sleep study would be necessary to assess where you are. Further treatment options are CPAP and MMA.

Good luck.

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