What is the Radiofrequency Ablation Tongue Treatment, and how does it work?

Radiofrequency ablation tongue treatment is an FDA approved minimally invasive procedure that uses directed radiofrequency energy to shrink the base of the tongue to improve symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea. Radiofrequency waves cause a controlled heating to a deep area of the tongue. As the tongue reacts over several weeks, targeted tissue is tightened and the tongue shrinks. After one to several sessions of radiofrequency ablation tongue treatment, the directed radiofrequency waves will have reduced the size of the base of the tongue as well as help it move forward in the airway to reduce obstructions.  This is usually enough to allow the patient to breathe more easily during sleep.

What does RFAT treat?

RFAT issued to treat sleep apnea or chronic snoring. In both conditions, the tongue muscles can relax during sleep to the point where they cause a blockage of the airways, causing snoring or shallow, stopped breathing. For these issues, RFAT treatment is an effective option because it focuses on shrinking the tongue in order to assist in unblocking the airways.

What are the risks?

The risks of RFAT treatment include infection, bleeding, tingling, numbness, weakness, issues swallowing, and voice changes. Usually, any complications that occur after the procedure clear up after a few days or weeks and very rarely are there long term issues. It is best to discuss any possible side effects with your doctor so you understand them before the procedure.

 What to expect during your procedure

Radiofrequency ablation tongue treatment takes about 5 minutes per treatment. Most patients have more than five treatments performed, but the number varies among patients. Each treatment has about four weeks between treatments.  Your procedure will be performed in the doctor’s office, with the use of local anesthesia to ensure that your experience is as comfortable as possible. Your doctor will use a small, minimally-invasive instrument to send the directed radiofrequency pulses to the base of your tongue.

 What happens after I’ve had my procedure? What is recovery like?

After the procedure, you will most likely feel discomfort in your tongue, but most patients don’t experience it for more than a few days. Since the tongue is one of the quickest body parts to heal and because RFAT doesn’t involve any incisions in the throat or tonsils, recovery time is relatively short. Your doctor may prescribe you pain medications to treat the pain and may suggest sucking on an ice cube to help the area heal faster and reduce symptoms. People can often go back to eating, drinking, and performing their regular activities the next day, without needing an intense recovery to encourage healing.

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