Radiofrequency ablation for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea: a meta-analysis

Laryngoscope. 2008 Oct;118(10):1878-83. doi: 10.1097/MLG.0b013e31817d9cc1.


Objectives/hypothesis: Recent studies suggest that radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a treatment option for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This study investigates the effectiveness of RFA in treating OSA using a critical literature review and meta-analysis.

Study design: Critical literature review and meta-analysis.

Methods: Two independent searches of PubMed 1966-present were performed to identify publications pertaining to RFA and OSA. Effectiveness of the procedure was measured by comparing the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), respiratory disturbance index (RDI), and lowest O2 saturation before and after tissue ablation.

Results: Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria. The study found a 31% reduction in short-term ESS (odds ratios (OR) 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.63-0.75), which was maintained beyond 12 months (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.43-0.73). Likewise, RFA resulted in a 31% reduction in short term (<12 month) (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.61-0.77) and 45% reduction (OR 0.55, 95% C.I. 0.45-0.72) in long-term (>24 month) RDI levels. Short-term results of the lowest O2 saturations failed to demonstrate improvement (OR 1.03, 95% CI 0.88-1.20).

Conclusion: RFA seems to be a clinically effective tool that reduces ESS scores and RDI levels in patients with OSA syndrome. The procedure should be considered a valid treatment option for patients who refuse or are unable to tolerate continuous positive airway pressure.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catheter Ablation*
  • Humans
  • Palate, Soft / surgery
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery*
  • Tongue / surgery