The Pillar Procedure

Chronic snoring may seem harmless, but it can cause serious physical and emotional complications for both snorers and those who sleep with them. Vibrating tissue in the soft palate is believed to play a major role in most cases of chronic snoring. The Pillar Procedure, which is manufactured by Medtronic, Inc., is a simple, minimally invasive way to effectively treat snoring, as well as mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea, by stiffening the soft palate. The procedure is not recommended for patients with severe sleep apnea or for those who are overweight.

Benefits of the Pillar Procedure

The Pillar Procedure is an effective treatment for snoring and mild sleep apnea. Patients who have undergone the Pillar Procedure report a significant decrease in snoring. The procedure itself is minimally invasive, and can be performed in a single doctor's visit. After the procedure, discomfort is minimal, and the patient's usual diet and activities can be resumed on the same day.

The Pillar Procedure

The Pillar Procedure involves placing an implant in the roof of the patient's mouth. During the procedure, three tiny braided strands of polyester filament are placed into the soft palate (roof of mouth). Over time, the implant and palate stiffen, reducing the vibration that causes snoring. The Pillar Procedure also reduces the collapse of tissue that obstructs the upper airway and causes sleep apnea. Implanting the filaments takes about 20 minutes.

The procedure does not remove any tissue, is typically painless and has a low risk of complications. The implants are tiny, safe and usually undetectable.

Complications of the Pillar Procedure

The most common complication of the Pillar Procedure is partial extrusion, which is when the tip of the implant protrudes through the soft tissue. If this occurs, the implant can be removed or replaced. As with any surgical treatment, infection is possible. A patient who develops a high fever should contact her or his physician as soon as possible.

Recovery from the Pillar Procedure

After the procedure, an anti-inflammatory pain medication may be prescribed to minimize swelling and reduce pain. To prevent infection, an antiseptic rinse and antibiotic may also be prescribed. Side effects of the procedure are minor, and typically resolve on their own within a few weeks after surgery. Side effects may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling of having a foreign body in the soft palate

There may be a noticeable decrease in snoring and/or sleep apnea as soon as the day after the procedure. It may, however, take a few months for the soft palate to harden around the implants.

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