Preliminary findings from a prospective, randomized trial of two tongue-base surgeries for sleep-disordered breathing

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003 Nov;129(5):539-46. doi: 10.1016/S0194-59980300728-9.


Objectives: This study compares the efficacy of 2 tongue-base surgical procedures in the treatment of patients with moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing.

Study design and setting: We conducted a prospective, randomized crossover surgical trial at a university hospital.

Methods: Seventeen patients with moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing and Fujita type II upper airway collapse for whom conservative treatment failed were enrolled into an institutional review board-approved surgical protocol. They were randomly assigned to undergo palatopharyngoplasty combined with either tongue advancement (mandibular osteotomy) or tongue suspension. Parameters assessed included severity of sleep-disordered breathing (polysomnography), sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale), and anatomic changes (upper airway endoscopy), as well as demographic factors. Patients not achieving satisfactory improvement in their condition were offered nonsurgical management or additional surgical treatment that varied based on the postoperative assessment but included crossing over to the other tongue surgical procedure.

Results: Nine of the 17 patients were randomized to the tongue suspension group, and 8 to the tongue advancement group. In the 9 tongue suspension patients, Epworth Sleepiness Scale scores fell from 12.1 to 4.1 (P = 0.007). Airway collapse for all 9 patients measured on Müller maneuver improved, by a mean of 64% (P = 0.0006) at the palate and 83% (P = 0.0003) at the base of the tongue. In the 8 tongue advancement patients, Epworth Sleepiness Scale scores fell from a mean of 13.3 to 5.4 (P = 0.004). Airway collapse for 5 of 8 patients measured on Müller maneuver improved by a mean of 31% (P = 0.1) at the palate and 75% (P = 0.03) at the base of the tongue.

Conclusion: Prospective, randomized trials of tongue-base surgery for sleep-disordered breathing are possible. Preliminary findings from the current protocol reveal a slight advantage of tongue suspension over tongue advancement.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandibular Advancement / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Palate, Soft / surgery*
  • Pharynx / surgery*
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / surgery*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy
  • Tongue / surgery*