Patients with obstructive sleep apnea who undergo surgery to improve their breathing get a better night’s sleep and therefore are less drowsy during the day, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The study finds surgery greatly reduces daytime sleepiness when compared to other nonsurgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea.

"This study validates what patients have told us regarding their improved alertness after surgery," says study author Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, MD, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

As part of their study, Yaremchuk and coauthor Brandy Tacia, DO, sought to determine if surgery may offer patients more relief from daytime sleepiness than CPAP.

The retrospective study looked at 40 patients who underwent one of three surgical interventions—uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, tonsillectomy, or radio-frequency ablation of the base of the tongue—between January 2007 and December 2009.

All patients in the study had at least mild obstructive sleep apnea, defined as five or more apnea/hypopnea events per hour of sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Many patients prior to surgery reported experiencing fatigue, snoring, and failure to successfully use CPAP.

Both prior to and following surgery, patients were asked to complete the Epworth Sleepiness Score (ESS) questionnaire, during eight common daytime activities such as watching TV, reading, or driving. Before surgery, all patients in the study reported having an ESS score of 10 or more.

Following surgery, 38 patients’ scores were significantly reduced, with a postoperative average score of 5.5. One patient in the study had no change in his score, while two experienced an increase.

Patients in the study also experienced a 50% reduction in apnea/hypopnea events during sleep following surgery.

Results from the study were presented at the [removed]Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting [/removed]in Scottsdale, Ariz.