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Sleep Apnea

The Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital is a leader in performing robotic surgery to treat lingual tonsillar hypertrophy – a major contributor of obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Sung Chung, M.D., and Rajeev Mehta, M.D., F.A.C.S., are among the first in the region to offer transoral robotic surgery (TORS) as a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea caused by lingual tonsillar hypertrophy.
  • TORS is often referred to as “incision-less” surgery since surgeons can access the back of the throat through the mouth, using the slender operating arms of the da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system, thus not requiring an open skin incision.
  • Silver Cross is part of an elite group of nationally recognized General Surgery Epicenters.
  • Physicians from all over the U.S. travel to Silver Cross Hospital to learn robotic and Single-Site® techniques from the surgical team.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects more than 18 million Americans. OSA is a serious health condition characterized by a repetitive stopping or slowing of breathing that can occur hundreds of times during the night. This often leads to poor quality sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Risks of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and motor vehicle accidents. It is estimated that one in five Americans have at least mild OSA.

A variety of surgical and non-surgical options are available for the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea through the Silver Cross Sleep Disorders Center.  Medical options include continuous positive airway pressure (i.e. CPAP), oral appliances, and weight loss.  Many of these treatment options depend on regular, long-term adherence to be effective.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Heavy snoring
  • Fatigue throughout the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restless sleep
  • Increased and/or disruptive snoring
  • Short-term memory loss


Enlarged Lingual Tonsils

Everyone has tonsil tissue at the back of their tongue called “lingual tonsils.” Lingual tonsils are different from what we normally think of as tonsils called “palatine tonsils,” which are located on the sides of the throat and can be seen when we open our mouths wide. Enlarged lingual tonsils are a leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition in which breathing stops several hundred times a night.

Surgical Options

When other treatments don’t help obstructive sleep apnea, surgery known as lingual tonsillectomy may be the best option. Surgical procedures can remove enlarged tongue tissue, reducing its volume and eliminating the cause of a person’s sleep apnea.

Traditional Surgery

The traditional, open surgical technique to remove lingual tonsils is performed through a large neck incision. The jaw is often cut, and bone repositioned with screws, pulling the attached tongue base forward. The procedure results in a lengthy recovery time for patients before they can return to everyday life.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) now available at the Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital offers one of the latest advances in sleep medicine. TORS uses the da Vinci® robot-assisted surgical system to treat severe obstructive sleep apnea by removing or reducing the size of the enlarged lingual tonsils. Best of all, the minimally invasive procedure is “incision-less,” meaning all work is done through the mouth, not through incisions in the neck.

Thanks to its high-definition, 3-D camera, the da Vinci system offers unparalleled views of the back of the throat. And its sophisticated robotic instrumentation, which translates the surgeon’s movements to a robotic arm, allows surgeons like Dr. Chung and Dr. Mehta to work in tight, hard-to-reach places, removing tissues with the utmost precision.

Because the procedure is performed through the mouth, patients experience significantly less pain and recovery time. In most cases patients are released from the hospital one or two days after surgery, compared to longer stays with the traditional method of surgery. Full recovery takes up to four weeks.

Benefits of TORS for Sleep Apnea

  • Precise removal of tissue
  • Low rate of complications
  • Low blood loss
  • Short hospital stay
  • No visible scarring or disfigurement




To be affiliated with the Midwest Institute of Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital, physicians must meet rigorous criteria and demonstrate excellent outcomes and high patient satisfaction. For more information or to schedule an appointment for a consultation, click on the surgeon’s photo.