The Pillar Procedure - Pillar Implants

What is the Pillar Procedure?

The Pillar Procedure is a new snoring treatment. It is an operation carried out under local anaesthetic in most cases.  Three tiny implants, made from woven polyester, are injected into the tissues of the soft palate.   Floppiness of the soft palate, that part of the roof of the mouth which extends from the bony hard palate to the uvula (or central, dangling portion of the soft palate), is a frequent contributor to snoring.  Stiffening the soft palate has been well known to quieten snoring in selected cases.   However, palatal stiffening is suitable for patients who have been carefully evaluated by an ear, nose and throat surgeon with an interest in snoring problems.  It does not assist every patient.   Other factors may be contributing to snoring in these patients.

What are Pillar implants?

The Pillar implants, made from polyester material, were developed in Europe and now have FDA US Government authority approval for surgical use. This material has been frequently used in medical products and can be safely inserted within the body.  The implant creates a fibrous  capsule around the implant which is the mechanism of the stiffening.

How do they work?

During the Pillar Procedure, three tiny woven inserts are placed in the soft palate to help reduce both the vibration that causes snoring and the ability of the soft palate to obstruct the airway.     The Pillar inserts add structural support to the soft palate over time and prevents palatal fluttering (snoring).

Will they stop my snoring?

The implants will prevent snoring or otherwise reduce the snoring.
If the cause of your snoring is due to the vibration of the soft palate, the implants will prevent this.  However, if there are other factors involved such as nasal blockage, large tonsils, lingual hypertrophy, etc. you may need additional treatment or surgery.

Will Pillar implants fix my sleep apnoea?

There are some early report medical papers suggesting that mild sleep apnoea (apnea) may be improved.   This is probably in cases where the palate is the cause of the snoring, without other factors in the upper air passages or throat contributing to snoring.

Is it a painful procedure?

The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic using a specially designed delivery tool and is tolerated easily by the majority of patients.  Two paracetamol  tablets taken before the procedure will be helpful.   Any discomfort after the procedure is generally gone within a day and can be relieved by paracetamol or tylenol tablets.

Do I need to have the procedure carried out in hospital?

No.  The Pillar procedure can be carried out in the doctor’s surgery during a single visit.

In some cases where other surgery is being done, such as nasal surgery, the Pillar Implants may also be inserted at that time.

What costs are involved?

The cost of the Pillar implant procedure will differ from country to country.  In The Centre for Snoring and Sleep Disorders, Sydney, the fee for the operative procedure, including the cost of the implants, is $1,500.00.(Aust.)  

The cost of the procedure is not re-imbursable under medical insurance at this time as it is a new procedure and is awaiting formal approval by the Funds and government authorities for Medicare reimbursement.

Will I be able to eat and drink afterwards?

For the first one to two days after the procedure, soft foods only are recommended.    Hot drinks should be avoided.
Pillar implants are designed to be invisible and should not be felt or interfere with swallowing or speech.   Many patients resume normal diet and activities the same day.

Is there discomfort and how long does it last?

The procedure is less invasive and less painful than surgical laser treatment or surgical tissue removal procedures.   As mentioned above, many patients resume normal diet the same day.  However, you may prefer to eat soft, easily digested foods for a day or two.

Are there any side effects?

Generally there are no side effects.  The implants may be rejected by the body and can be simply removed.  Even when such rejection occurs some stiffening of the palate may, nevertheless, occur, and this can bring an improvement.

Can I get an infection?

Infection can occur with any implant.  This seems to be uncommon in the initial usage of the product.  The role of antibiotic cover for the first week is yet to be established.

How long do they last?  Would I need another treatment after a few years?

The Pillar implants are permanent unless extrusion occurs.   Should the extrusion be a problem, then a repeat procedure can be carried out.    If snoring continues, other treatments may be appropriate.

Will I still have to use a CPAP machine?

A Pillar implant is for use in patients with mild sleep apnoea due to palatal problems only.  Moderate, or more severe, sleep apnoea is usually due to factors other than the soft palate.   Such patients would not be assisted by a Pillar implant procedure.   This would have to be decided by your Doctor and would be dependent on the severity and cause of your sleep apnoea.  

Can everyone benefit from the Pillar procedure?

No.  Success with the Pillar Procedure can be influenced by tongue position, tonsil size and other factors.  Your doctor can give you more information and determine whether the Pillar Proacedure is right for you.

I am a professional singer.   Will the procedure affect my singing voice?

Generally there would not be a great change but this would not be able to be guaranteed in all cases.   Any likely impact is probably minimal.    However, in the patient with professional voice use, the possibilities of risks always need to be considered.

How long does it take before the Pillar Implant is successful?

Between two to three months may be required before there is sufficient fibrosis around the implant to stiffen the palate and relieve the snoring.    Please note that there are no instant results and that time must be allowed.

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