The History of Sleep Surgery

Adv Otorhinolaryngol. 2017;80:17-21. doi: 10.1159/000470683. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


Snoring and the subsequent diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a life-threatening medical condition with no available treatment until the late 20th century. An early description of OSA was provided by Charles Dickens in his 1836 novel Pickwick Papers with the description of a "fat boy" who was thought to be lazy and always falling asleep but likely displayed hypersomnolence from OSA. It was not until 1976 that Ikematsu first described uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) as an alternative surgical treatment of "snoring," with a reported cure rate of 81%. The only other surgical procedure for OSA was permanent tracheostomy, but patients suffered from social stigma from the visible stoma with skin flaps and complications such as tracheal granulomas and tracheitis. UPPP was introduced in the USA as an alternative to permanent tracheostomy by Fujita in 1981. Since then, multiple surgical approaches and combinations of approaches have surfaced, with variable success rates.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Pharynx / surgery
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / history*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery
  • Snoring / history*
  • Snoring / surgery
  • Tracheostomy / history
  • Uvula / surgery