Jacqueline Espinoza is an avid volunteer in her community. She suffered from migraines for 10 years, but saw no improvement after following treatments that several specialists recommended to her. Jacqueline knew there had to be something else that was causing her migraines. She traveled a long road before she found out that she is one of about 22 million Americans that have sleep apnea – an involuntary sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

In 2011, Jacqueline was referred by her primary care physician to the Adult & Pediatric Sleep Center at Long Beach Medical Center for a sleep study. The test revealed that she was waking up several times throughout the night without knowing. The test revealed sleep apnea. There was not enough oxygen flowing through her blood stream, causing migraines as a result of not getting a good night’s rest.

Her doctor recommended that she sleep with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to help with her sleep apnea. Wearing a mask, the CPAP treatment used mild air pressure to keep Jacqueline’s airways open, so she could receive oxygen while she slept. The CPAP is designed to improve sleep quality, but after sleeping with the CPAP for several weeks, Jacqueline did not see any improvement. Her migraines were still prominent.

After struggling with the CPAP machine, Jacqueline was referred to Jesse Tan, M.D., otolaryngology-head and neck surgeon, Long Beach Medical Center. When Dr. Tan examined her, he determined that she needed an Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UVPPP) procedure and a robotic-assisted resection of the base of her tongue, because it was blocking her airway.

“When I looked at Jacqueline’s throat, I was able to see that her airway was constricted and blocked by her tonsils and the back of her tongue.” says Dr. Tan.

Transoral robotic-assisted resection of the base of tongue is a new, FDA-approved minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to treat sleep apnea. It involves removing redundant obstructive tongue tissue in the back of the throat without any external facial or neck incisions. Dr. Tan used the da Vinci Si Robotic Surgical System to remove a 2 cm piece of the back of the tongue and also performed the UVPPP to open her air passage.

“After surgery, I could tell right away that something changed,” says Jacqueline. “I slept like a baby and I wasn’t snoring anymore. It felt so good knowing my migraines caused by my sleep apnea were gone.”

Just one week after her surgery, Jacqueline felt the benefits of minimally invasive surgery by returning back to volunteering for her community and doing what she loves, helping others, so quickly after surgery.