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In the West, removal of the uvula is predominantly undertaken as part of palatal surgery, in cases of obstructive sleep apnoea. In the developing world, such as the Middle East and Africa, uvulectomy is a more common practice. The uvula is removed for curative or preventive purposes, or as part of ritual practice. Due to immigration from developing to developed world countries, and to Western doctors working abroad, such doctors are increasingly being confronted with unfamiliar traditional healing practices, within a medical context.
The Medline and Embase online databases were systematically searched for literature on traditional uvulectomy. We present a review of this literature. We also present the first report, to our best knowledge, of obstructive sleep apnoea as a late complication of traditional uvulectomy.
Traditional uvulectomy may be complicated by post-operative haemorrhage and local infections, among many other problems. We report cases of obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring caused by palatal stenosis resulting from traditional uvulectomy during childhood.
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