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Sleep Apnea and RFA

Radio Frequency Ablation

Radio frequency ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure where part of the electrical conductionsystem of dysfunctional tissue is ablated (removed) using the energy generated from the high frequency alternating current to treat a medical disorder. The biggest advantage of using radio frequency current is that it does not directly stimulate nerves or muscle; leading to a more stable procedure that can be performed with little to no general anesthesia.

RFA and Sleep Apnea

One of the more ignored causes of obstructive sleep apnea in patients is airway collapse due to the tongue. This primarily happens through a patient’s tongue base being larger than normal. Keep in mind, an enlarged tongue does not directly related to obesity and can even occur in thin patients. Regardless of how the tongue became enlarged, it collapses backwards during sleep as the muscle relaxes, (particularly when patients sleep on their back) ultimately leading to sleep apnea.

Multiple procedures are available to reduce the size of the tongue base or advance it forward out of the airway. Radiofrequency ablation, primarily of the base of the tongue, is one of the newer innovative procedures used to minimize airway obstruction. It has been used safely for over fifteen years and is very well studied.


Written by Dr. Dillard