Breathing a sigh of relief


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 28 May 2016

Breathing clear: Sia giving the thumbs up five days after undergoing the robotic surgical procedure for his severe sleep apnea problems.

KUALA LUMPUR: For 12 years, businessman Sia Ah Chai slept on a chair at night because he could not breathe when lying down on his bed.

Sia, 47, from Johor, suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea and would wake up feeling exhausted.

However, robotic surgery on May 19 changed his situation.

Sia tried conservative treatments such as a positive airway pressure face mask, but he had difficulty ad­­hering to the regiment, said Con­sultant ENT specialist Dr Yeo Sek Wee.

“Before this, I’d sleep for half an hour or two hours and wake up,” said Sia, adding that his blood pressure had also improved.

Sleep apnea occurs when one regularly stops breathing for seve­ral seconds during sleep.

This reduces blood flow to the brain, which then signals the body to gasp, choke or snort to fight the obstruction.

Sia, who still sleeps in a chair during the recovery period, said he had pain from the surgical wound but had been able to sleep for five to six hours at night.

He is among the first few Malay­sians to have undergone robotic surgery utilising the da Vinci Surgi­cal System for ear, nose and throat (ENT) treatment.

The robot is also used in complex urology, gynaecology, colorectal and thyroid surgeries.

Dr Yeo said he used the minimally-invasive procedure to reach the difficult-to-access tongue base area to remove part of Sia’s tongue and allow air to flow while sleeping.

“The technology gives you the angulation that your eyes cannot give you,” he said.

Working from a console with a screen that offers a high-definition magnified view of the surgical site, Dr Yeo inserts the tiny wristed robot arms attached with a tiny video camera and surgical instruments through a few small incisions.

Without the improved visualisa­tion and precision, these difficult operations sometimes have to be performed through a much larger opening, he added.


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