Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is caused by obstruction or narrowing of the airway at various levels. The repair of one site only will not alleviate the syndrome if there are obstructions in other sites. Epiglottis prolapse during inspiration is an unusual cause of airway obstruction and a rare cause of OSA.
Twelve cases of OSAS due to an abnormal epiglottis are presented. We present our approach to the diagnosis using fibre-optic examination of the hypopharynx, and our treatment using endoscopic carbon dioxide laser partial epiglottidectomy.
We found in our series that in 11.5 per cent of patients who failed the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty procedure, the reason was a narrow airway at the hypopharyngeal level caused by an abnormal epiglottis. It is our suggestion that in these cases a laser partial epiglottidectomy should be performed. The results of this study show that partial epiglottidectomy can increase the cure rate of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome by 10–15 per cent.