It has been shown that adults and children with obstructive sleep apnea have a smaller airway compared to individuals without obstructive sleep apnea. Since the hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is upper airway obstruction during sleep, surgical management of the condition usually involves enlarging the airway by removal of soft tissues, or by expansion of the jaw structures that are restricting it. Additionally, the laxity of the upper airway can be reduced by surgery, which lessens the obstruction. Since the airway structures of adults and children vary, different surgical concepts and procedures have been developed to accommodate the anatomical differences.
Because the airway pattern and the severity of obstruction vary greatly between individuals, the success rate of a given surgical procedure also varies greatly. In general, as the severity of OSA increases, so does the invasiveness of the required procedures in order to achieve successful surgical outcomes.