In normal conditions, the muscles of the upper part of the throat keep this passage open to allow air to flow into the lungs

These muscles usually relax during sleep, but the passage remains open enough to permit the flow of air. Some individuals have a narrower passage, and during sleep, relaxation of these muscles causes the passage to close, and air cannot get into the lungs. Loud snoring and labored breathing occur. When complete blockage of the airway occurs, air cannot reach the lungs.

For reasons that are still unclear, in deep sleep, breathing can stop for a period of time (often more than 10 seconds). These periods of lack of breathing, or apneas, are followed by sudden attempts to breathe. These attempts are accompanied by a change to a lighter stage of sleep. The result is fragmented sleep that is not restful, leading to excessive daytime drowsiness.

The classic picture of obstructive sleep apnea includes episodes of heavy snoring that begin soon after falling asleep. The snoring proceeds at a regular pace for a period of time, often becoming louder, but is then interrupted by a long silent period during which no breathing is taking place (apnea). The apnea is then interrupted by a loud snort and gasp and the snoring returns to its regular pace. This behavior recurs frequently throughout the night.

During the apneas, the oxygen level in the blood falls. Persistent low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) may cause many of the daytime symptoms. If the condition is severe enough, pulmonary hypertension may develop leading to right-sided heart failure or corpulmonale.

There are two kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air entering from the nose or mouth is either partially or completely blocked, usually because of obesity or extra tissue in the back of the throat and mouth.

The Pillar Procedure treats the soft palate — the most common cause of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The Pillar Procedure is relatively painless and can be performed in a doctor’s office in approximately 20 minutes, using only local anesthetic. The Pillar Procedure does not require the removal of any soft palate tissue. Patients cannot see or feel the Pillar implants, nor do they interfere with swallowing or speech. Many patients resume normal diet and activities the same day of the procedure.

During the Pillar Procedure, tiny woven implants are placed into the muscle of the soft palate using a specially designed, single use, sterile delivery tool. Each tiny, highly engineered and precisely woven Pillar implant is approximately 18 mm (0.7 inches) in length and has an outer diameter of approximately 2 mm (0.08 inches). The implants are woven from a polyester material that has been used for more than 50 years in implantable medical products.

With the Pillar Procedure, over time the implants, together with the body’s natural fibrotic response, add structural support to and stiffen the soft palate. This structural support and stiffening reduces the tissue vibration that can cause snoring and the palatal tissue collapse that can obstruct the upper airway and cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Some patients report a noticeable improvement within weeks, while others may take 8 to 12 weeks to realize the full benefit of the Pillar Procedure.