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When looking at the throat with the mouth open, a person may notice a small hanging piece of tissue located around the center back of the mouth. This is the uvula, and if a person makes noise or even breathes hard enough, the tissue may sway or vibrate in response. Removing the uvula is called uvulectomy and this procedure can be viewed in two ways. As part of western medicine to address conditions like snoring, it may be considered a medically acceptable treatment, but as part of traditional medicine to cure illnesses such as sore throat, it is considered extremely dangerous.
Under most circumstances in western medicine the uvulectomy is viewed as a possible means of lessening snoring problems or eliminating issues having to do with sleep apnea. To reduce possible vibration in the throat, sometimes tonsils, adenoids and uvula are removed. While some people report success with uvulectomy, others do not find the complete cure they need. Getting the opinion of several respected otolaryngologists is advisable. It should be noted that many times this treatment is considered optional, and thus not covered by insurance companies.
The basic procedure uses medication to numb the back of the throat, and often uses a cutting tool that seals or cauterizes the wounds while cutting. Unless people have other procedures done with uvulectomy, they are fully conscious. Surgery can be done in a doctor’s office and people might be home within an hour after this small operation.
It does take about two weeks to fully heal, and food intake may be restricted by type or temperature during the first few days. Uvulectomy may result in a significantly sore throat, and sometimes eating or talking is a little different at first. These sensations tend to go away. Within a few weeks it’s fairly easy to tell how effective the surgery has been in reducing total snoring. Effectiveness of the surgery tends to be a judgment made by sleeping partners.
While uvulectomy in western medicine is a possibly effective treatment for snoring, in other parts of the world, it may be employed as part of traditional medicine. There are clear differences. Traditional medical practices tend not to be sterile, they may be based in ritual, and they have less proven success rate. In particular, there is great concern about this surgery when practiced to treat sore throat because sore throat may stem from bacterial infection. Cutting with no form of cautery makes it quite possible for massive sepsis to occur quickly, and can prove fatal.
Additional concern exists when uvulectomy is thought unnecessary. It could be prescribed for conditions that have no connection to the throat or nose. Even when these surgeries don’t result in infection or illness, western medicine looks askance at them as unnecessary. On the other hand, there are some that feel uvula removal for snoring is relatively unnecessary too, unless medical problems are resulting from it.
I had a uvulectomy for snoring. It did help the snoring. My uvula was so long in my throat you couldn't see the bottom of it. But this problem was replaced with a dry throat! This is worse than the snoring, which only affected others (though the complaints and being put in the most isolated place as a house guest did bother me).
When I asked before the uvulectomy if the uvula helped to lubricate the throat or helped with swallowing, my ENT doctor said no, it was useless and would not be missed. Not true. At the post op office visit a month later, I asked many questions, and one answer was that all the physicians in his practice
believed the uvula was useless.
Also, the first two weeks after surgery, and with pain pills, I was in severe pain. I was up six times every night for 45 minutes trying to soothe and soften a dry throat that felt like the back of my tongue was dry, cracking leather. For 45 minutes each of the six times, I sipped water at first, then milk (coated better) then warm applesauce (better still). With each swallow, the pain was extreme, and after 45 minutes or so I'd try to sleep, but would be up again in two hours. I bought a humidifier the second night, and ran it on high too. I needed the pain pills refilled for the second two weeks, and by the end, the leather felt thinner and I was only up two times a night for 30 minutes with tiny swallows of warm applesauce.
Now, over a year after, I still run humidifiers, suck lemon drops, never eat popcorn anymore, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and use Biotin mouth rinse and toothpaste. My throat feels like it is lined with thin to a bit thicker parchment, and I only have a sore throat once or twice a week.
No one should have this surgery without knowing that a modified uvulectomy is a good option and that the uvula does help to lubricate the throat.
I found some research online to back up the important function of the uvula of helping to lubricate the throat. I would like very much to get this fact (or theory or opinion) out to the medical community. ENT's and oral surgeons should know and accept this information but it seems hard to change my own physician's mind, never mind all the rest.
During my first month, I found a few doctors on the internet who advocated a partial uvulectomy, leaving some of the lubricating glands of the uvula. This was discounted by my ENT at the one month visit. He said you can't believe what is on the internet. But after my last visit a year after my surgery, he agreed to research it. Two weeks later, I received a letter from him saying he found what I found, plus blogs by others with this same problem and that their physicians reacted the same way he did (unbelieving). Still, he just said he would mention my case to future patients with a similar problem. He also offered me a referral to a more knowledgeable physician, but I need to find the name of that physician. I am trying to find one in Boston (90 miles away) since both he and my primary physician said they would have more cases and more knowledge. I need the name to submit to my health care provider.
I don't want to make an appointment with just anyone, and am trying to talk to a physician to be sure he/she can help first. One ENT doctor did request and look over my medical records, but her office called to say no, she could not help and gave me a telephone number at Massachusetts General to call. They (this first number was a Massachusetts General oral surgeon, oral medicine) gave me a telephone number (This second number was the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Doctors at Massachusetts General) and when I called there, they gave me a third number for the Division of Oral Medicine and Dentistry at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
From there, I was switched to the office of a doctor and was told I could make an appointment. After explaining that I first needed the name of a doctor for a referral that my health provider required, and that I wanted to be sure this was the right doctor for my case, I was given the doctor's phone number and was told to leave a message and she would get back to me. She is an Oral Pathologist, so she may be someone who is knowledgeable and/or interested in the function of the uvula. I hope so. That was last Friday, and I waited. On Monday, I received a message from her to call a number and they would page her and I could leave my number as part of the page. I left my number and waited. The wrong doctor was paged and called. I called again but again waited until 6 p.m. with no call. Today I called and was transferred to her office where I left a message again. And again I wait.