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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Uvula removal

03/19/2001

Question:

WHat is the purpose of the uvula? When should it be removed? What are the risks, complications or long term effects of removal of the uvula?

Answer:

The uvula is the little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat. Alone it does not have any specific function. In conjunction with the soft palate (the tissue that the uvula is attached to), it can help separate the nose from the throat during speech and swallowing. Removal of the uvula is often performed to treat snoring and/or obstructive sleep apnea. It is often performed in conjunction with tonsillectomy and trimming of the soft palate. The main complication that can occur with removal of the uvula is velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) which means inability to separate the nose from the throat during swallowing and speaking. This can result in a `nasal` sounding voice, and liquid coming out of the nose during swallowing. Fortunately, this complication does not happen very often. Pain, unfortunately, is common after this procedure especially if the tonsils are removed at the same time. I hope this is helpful.

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Response by:

David  L Steward, MD David L Steward, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati