Surgery is often effective in treating snoring. It is less effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea.
The challenge that confronts the surgeon is determining what part of the upper airway is causing the obstruction to airflow. There are many possible sites, and conventional sleep testing does not identify the area the surgeon should modify. If the surgeon does not treat that site in the airway, or if there are multiple sites of obstruction, it is unlikely that the sleep apnea will diminish to a degree that eliminates the need for other treatment.
Given the several sites where airway obstruction may exist, there are several types of operations currently used to treat sleep apnea. The most common is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP. The success rate of this operation is about 50 percent. Some surgeons have achieved very high success rates using multiple, staged operations.2 Nonetheless, most authorities recommend routine re-assessment for sleep apnea after surgery. See the caution below. There's more about surgery here.
Most children with snoring or sleep apnea have enlarged tonsils, or adenoids, or both. In 75 percent of those cases, surgical removal of these tissues cures sleep breathing problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed removal of the tonsils and adenoids as the initial treatment of choice for sleep breathing problems in children.