Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

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A blocked airway can cause problems such as snoring; however, the blockage and inability to breathe repeatedly wakes the patient from sleep due to a lack of oxygen. Untreated patients often experience excessive fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure and other adverse health effects and can cause heart disease or failure. This condition is not only extremely disruptive to the patient's health, but also interferes with the rest and the health of other family members and spouses. In the past, the obstruction has often been misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed as involving only the palate or uvula. Treatment of only these parts of the palate has been minimally successful. In many cases, the obstruction is more often the tongue which falls back into the airway as muscle tone is lost as the patient falls asleep. Bimaxillary surgery, similar to that mentioned for orthognathic surgery, is used to advance the tongue base and the soft palate, opening the airway where other maneuvers (palate and adenoid surgery, for example) have failed.

Reprinted with permission from American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.