A less painful way of treating tissue at the back of the mouth is successful in relieving snoring. Around 40 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women have a problem with snoring - and it gets worse with age. The main problem is vibrations in the soft palate - the area of tissue at the back of the mouth including the uvula, the sides of the tonsils, and the base of the tongue. Surgery that makes this tissue stiffer reduces the vibrations.
This has been done by surgery that creates scarring in the palate - but it's a very painful treatment. Surgeons at the University of California are trying a different approach - making the lesions with a needle electrode which feeds radiofrequency energy into the tissue. This is done in an area of the palate with few pain fibres so it doesn't hurt like the more standard treatment.
And radiofrequency treatment works well - most patients in the trials experienced a significant decrease in snoring, which was maintained for several months following the surgery.