CHAPEL HILL -- An ear, nose and throat doctor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is using a new technology that has already proven successful in treating snoring to provide a less expensive, relatively pain-free alternative to traditional nasal obstruction surgery.
"This nonsurgical procedure, called somnoplasty, could change how we're doing things," said Dr. Wendell Yarbrough, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, who divides his time between head and neck cancer research and clinical duties.
"The technology was first approved for treating snoring, which is treatment of the palate," he said. "It's exciting that now another innovative use of the technology has been approved."
Somnoplasty delivers radio frequency energy through a needle, which, in the treatment for snoring, is put underneath the lining of the mouth.
"It creates a scar that, as it forms, tightens up the palate and decreases the volume and intensity of snoring," Yarbrough said. "The procedure is relatively pain-free - patients might need to take some Motrin or Tylenol immediately but narcotics for seven to 10 days are unnecessary. It's also more convenient and less expensive because it can be done in a physician's office and the patient can be back at work the next day."
In dealing with a nasal obstruction, the procedure works like this: the doctor introduces the needle into the turbinate, the thin, membrane-covered bony plates on the walls of the nasal chambers. The front part of the turbinate is treated first. If the patient is still obstructed a few weeks later, a second treatment focuses on the back part of the turbinate.
"The turbinate is what swells up when you have allergies or colds," Yarbrough
said. "You can be stopped up within minutes because that tissue fills up so
readily with blood. When the needle is stuck into the turbinate, it creates a
scar and shrinks it down, so that
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill