Surgery

Is there a surgical fix for obstructive sleep apnea?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is there a surgical fix for sleep apnea? I've tried CPAP and a couple of other treatments, and none of them work well for me.

DEAR READER: Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops intermittently, or becomes shallower, during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form. OSA occurs when muscles in the back of your throat relax as you sleep. This causes the airway -- the space in the back of your throat through which air passes when you breathe -- to periodically collapse. If air can't get into your lungs, oxygen levels in your lungs drop, which then causes oxygen levels in your blood to drop.

What are the surgical options for a herniated disk?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a herniated disk that's been bothering me for more than a year. I've tried exercise, medication and complementary therapies. None have helped. What are my surgical options?

DEAR READER: Let's start with a brief anatomy lesson. The human spine consists of a column of interlocking bones called vertebrae. They surround and protect the spinal cord. Vertebrae are stacked on top of each other. In between each pair of vertebrae is a little shock-absorbing cushion called an intervertebral disk. Intervertebral disks -- think of miniature jelly doughnuts -- prevent the vertebrae from scraping against each other. A normal disk has a jelly-like center (the nucleus) and a tough outer covering.

What is laparoscopic surgery?

EAR DOCTOR K: I need to have surgery in my abdominal area. My surgeon said he can do it "laparoscopically." What does that mean?

DEAR READER: It is good news. It means that the surgery you'll have will involve cutting through less tissue, and it will be easier to recover. Forty years ago, abdominal surgery would have required a relatively large incision. The surgeon had no way of looking at your insides and seeing what needed to be fixed or cut out.

What replacement lenses should I chose after cataract surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm having cataract surgery in a few weeks. There are so many options for replacement lenses. Which one should I choose?

DEAR READER: I can't tell you which you should choose, since I don't know the specifics of your cataract. But I can suggest how you should think about several options that your ophthalmologist is likely to discuss with you.

Can you explain what will happen during LASIK eye surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've just scheduled LASIK surgery. Can you explain what will happen during the procedure?

DEAR READER: To understand LASIK surgery, you first need to know a few things about the eye and what it does. Basically, your eye is like a camera: It focuses the light coming into it to make a sharp image. That image then is captured on a kind of film (or, in digital cameras, a sensor).

Do I need surgery for an inguinal hernia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have an inguinal hernia. Do I need to have it repaired? If so, what will the procedure involve?

DEAR READER: An inguinal hernia occurs when part of the intestine bulges through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, near the groin. The bulge can be small or large.

How does lumpectomy plus radiation compare to mastectomy for treating breast cancer?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. My doctor wants me to consider a lumpectomy plus radiation. But wouldn't a mastectomy be more effective?

DEAR READER: In a lumpectomy, just the cancer and tissue immediately around it are removed, and radiation therapy is used to kill any nearby cancer cells that might not have been removed. In a mastectomy, the whole breast is removed. Since sometimes breast cancer cells (invisible to the eye of the surgeon) can spread into the surrounding breast, it's plausible to think that a mastectomy might have a better cure rate than just a lumpectomy.

What happens during aortic valve replacement surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have aortic valve regurgitation and need to have my aortic valve replaced. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: When it's working properly, your aortic valve opens to allow oxygen-rich blood to flow from your heart into your aorta and out to the rest of your body. The aorta is the body's largest blood vessel.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Every time my husband has abdominal pain, he worries that it's appendicitis. Can you tell me the actual symptoms so I can assure him he's fine?

DEAR READER: Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain. The cause of most abdominal pain is a temporary and simple disorder, such as a pocket of gas trapped in the intestine, or stomach acid causing heartburn. But serious conditions also cause abdominal pain, and appendicitis is one of the most common of those serious conditions. It affects one in every 500 people in the United States each year.

What is a wrist replacement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: We've all heard of hip and knee replacements -- but is it true that you can have your wrist replaced too?

DEAR READER: We like to think of ourselves as irreplaceable, but the truth is that some of our parts are replaceable. The joint replacements you hear most about are those of the knees and hips, but surgeons also have been replacing hand joints for decades.