Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is surgery for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). I work directly with one of the original pioneers of this surgery. It is effective at reducing severe OSA (not eliminating it) and can eliminate mild/moderate OSA. The surgery is about 50-70% effective, depending on who you talk to, and is not very effective (or perhaps totally ineffective) in the obese population (body mass index greater than 30). The surgery itself involves tonsillectomy (if they are still present), removal of the uvula (the punching bag in the back of the throat), removal of part of the soft palate, and suture re-suspension of the cut surface to open the oral airway (throat) more. Other items that will make the surgery less effective include an enlarged tongue, short lower jaw, and deviated nasal septum.
In most cases, it is prudent to try continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) first. This is a non-invasive machine that helps OSA in most users, and is the mainstay of treatment in the obese (aside from diet or gastric bypass).
The surgery itself is relatively short, usually requires overnight observation, and has a very painful recovery period. Most patients who have the surgery in our clinic will lose 15-20lbs in the postoperative 3-4 weeks from the pain. This part is serious business because many patients if not properly warned, will say they regretted the surgery by this point.
In the case of life-threatening OSA and inability to use CPAP, some patients require tracheostomy. These are fairly extreme cases, and almost always are morbidly obese.
Please don't take offense at any of my comments regarding issues of patient obesity, etc, this information is based upon a body of scientific literature and the disorder of OSA affects a disproportionate number of people in this group.