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VCU Department of Otolaryngology, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Department of Otolaryngology VCU Medical Center VCU

VCU Department of Otolaryngology

Snoring and Sleep Apnea


The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery offers a wide range of treatments for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many people are aware of the impact of snoring, which can cause disruptive sleep for friends and family members of the "snorer," and in some cases even lead to interrupted sleep for the snorer. However while snoring itself may be considered somewhat of a nuisance, it is also the most common symptoms of its more severe counterpart, OSA. In patients with OSA, during sleep the breathing passages of the nose and throat repeatedly constrict, narrow, and even completely close off temporarily, interrupting the normal oxygen supply. People who suffer from this condition typically rouse repeatedly during the night to re-open air passages, and often have no memory of the repeated awakenings. While minor cases of sleep apnea may simply interfere with quality of life -- causing those who suffer from it to get poor quality sleep and feel fatigued or unrested, even after a "full" night of sleep -- more serious cases are strongly associated with increased risks of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Research indicates that OSA may be one of the most widespread chronic conditions in the United States, and that 80 percent of those cases or more go untreated.

Diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis of OSA may be suggested by symptoms of snoring, morning headaches, daytime fatigue, and bedpartner report of loud snoring and disrupted breathing at night. However a definitive diagnosis must be obtained through a sleep study or polysomnogram. This test typically involves an overnight stay in a specialized testing center during which a number of physiological and neurological monitors are used during sleep to measure sleep stages, airflow, effort of breathing, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and patient movements. In the VCU Health System we are lucky to have an exceptional Center for Sleep Medicine, staffed with board certified experts in the diagnosis and non-surgical management of sleep disorders of all kinds, including OSA.

Patients diagnosed with OSA and those with snoring may have a number of non-surgical treatment options suitable for them. These include lifestyle changes such as altering sleep position, weight loss, oral splints, or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Surgical treatments are considered for patients with very specific and significant causes of airway narrowing, for example those with very large tonsils or deviated nasal septum, or patients who have not had success with other less invasive treatments for their sleep apnea. The goal of surgery for OSA and snoring is to enlarge and stabilize the airways in the nose, palate, tongue area or some combination of the three (often patients with more serious OSA suffer from narrowing and collapse in more than one area of the respiratory pathway). Our otolaryngologists in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery are experts in the evaluation of the breathing passages, and will work to identify potential causes of airway narrowing and determine the optimal surgical treatment when needed. Surgical treatment may include a variety of procedures performed on the nasal passages, palate or roof of the mouth, tongue, jaw, or voicebox . With access to the most current research and most advanced technologies, our goal is to ensure that patients suffering from snoring or OSA are fully informed of their surgical and non-surgical options and fully supported in finding the treatment best suited to their condition, lifestyle and needs.

Physicians and staff


To schedule an appointment for evaluation and treatment of snoring or sleep apnea, call 804-628-4ENT (Nelson Clinic), 804-957-6287 (Colonial Heights Office) and 804-323-0830 (Stony Point Clinic).

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center
School of Medicine
Department of Otolaryngology
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