OBJECTIVE: To determine the true incidence of mucosal injury after radiofrequency ablation of the palate (RFAP) for snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea, and to evaluate the consequences of this injury. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: A prospective, nonrandomized analysis of RFAP was undertaken at Stanford University Hospital. Endoscopic examinations of the nasal surface of the palate and of the posterior pharyngeal wall were performed to supplement the routine oral cavity examinations in the postoperative period. Visual analog scales of pain were completed by the patients. Twenty-three patients underwent a total of 54 RFAP procedures using the Somnus system at the recommended level of energy (600 J in the midline palate, and 300 J to each lateral palate). RESULTS: Fourteen of the 23 first stage procedures were associated with a total of 16 mucosal injuries representing an incidence of 60.9%. Mucosal injury at the 1 st stage prompted a reduction in energy at the 2nd stage to 500 J in the midline and 250 J laterally; there were 4 injuries among 19 2nd stage procedures (21.1%). The overall incidence of mucosal injury, including stage 3 and 4 procedures, was therefore 42.6%; 37% of these were "occult" (only visualized endoscopically). CONCLUSIONS AND SIGNIFICANCE: RFAP, although intended to be mucosa-sparing, is nevertheless associated with a high incidence of mucosal injuries, many of which are occult. The occurrence of these mucosal ulcers is usually associated with only a trivial degree of increased pain postoperatively.
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