Medtronic Pillar Procedure for Snoring and OSA: A Detailed Analysis

Last updated: September 4th, 2023

Table of Contents

About the Pillar Procedure

Medtronic, recognized for the Pillar Procedure, has its roots in the medical technology sector since 1949. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Medtronic's initiative into the Pillar System began after acquiring Restore Medical in 2008. With over 45,000 global patients benefiting from the Pillar Procedure, its core intent revolves around addressing snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) challenges.

At the heart of snoring and OSA is the soft palate, a pivotal tissue facilitating our swallowing mechanism. During rest, its relaxation can lead to snoring, and in extreme situations, evolve into sleep apnea, a condition known for its potential hazards. However, the Pillar Procedure is a remedy suitable only for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea or basic snoring. It's essential to note that individuals with severe sleep apnea or central apnea should sidestep this treatment.

How it’s conducted

The entire Pillar Procedure, transpiring within a doctor's office, is typically a short, 15-20 minute process. Local anesthetics ensure the painless insertion of three to five small implants into the back of the throat. Constructed of polyester fibers, these implants are less than 3/4" of an inch long and about 1.5 millimeters thick.

The step-by-step execution involves initial antiseptic mouthwash administration followed by a topical anesthetic like Lidocaine. The pillars are inserted using a specialized device with a tubular blade, ensuring precise pillar placement in the soft palate. The actual insertion takes a mere couple of minutes. Significantly, the procedure neither demands tissue removal nor stitches, leaving minor incisions that heal naturally.

How does it work?

The logic behind the Pillar Procedure lies in strengthening the soft palate, curtailing its movement during sleep. The actual strength doesn't emanate from the implants themselves. The body's natural response leads to tissue development around the implants, resulting in a stiffer palate. While initial effects surface after 4-6 weeks, it takes between 3-12 months for the hard scar tissue to fully encapsulate the implants, making the pillars virtually imperceptible.


Manufacturing-led studies advocate an 80% success rate in snoring reduction or elimination post-Pillar Procedure. However, online narratives display a mixed bag of outcomes, with many users reporting negligible success.

Side effects and complaints

Post-procedure experiences can range from a sore throat to potential infections, treatable with antibiotics. Rarely, the body might reject the pillars, necessitating their removal. In some cases, there's a risk of the procedure aggravating sleep apnea. Although marketed as reversible, the persistent scar tissue from the procedure challenges this claim.

Cost and insurance coverage

Many insurance providers categorize the Pillar Procedure under cosmetic treatments, implying out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. Costs can range between $1,500 to over $2,200, depending on the number of pillars used. When considering this treatment, factor in both cost and the physician's expertise.

My opinion

While the Pillar Procedure offers a novel remedy for snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea, its efficacy could be influenced by individual oral structures and pillar placement precision. The absence of independent studies and a dearth of online success stories combined with its high cost make alternatives like CPAP or Oral appliances a more viable option.

Which mouthpiece should I buy?

The anti-snoring mouthpiece stands out as an efficacious solution against snoring. With a plethora of options available, making a choice can be daunting. From personal experience and product reviews, I've curated a list of recommended devices to ease the decision-making process.

FAQ: The Pillar Procedure for Snoring and OSA

1. Does the Pillar procedure really work?

The Pillar Procedure is designed to help treat snoring and mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea by stiffening the soft palate. Studies, primarily funded by the manufacturer, suggest that the procedure is effective in reducing or eliminating snoring in 80% or more of the cases. However, individual experiences vary, and some online testimonials claim to have seen little to no benefit after undergoing the procedure.

2. What is the pillar implant procedure?

The Pillar Procedure is a minimally invasive treatment where three to five small polyester implants, measuring just under 3/4" of an inch long by 1.5 millimeters thick, are inserted into the soft palate. This procedure is conducted at a doctor’s office and usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes. It aims to reduce the vibration of the soft palate, a common cause of snoring, by encouraging the formation of stiffening scar tissue around the implants.

3. What is the success rate of the Pillar procedure?

According to some studies, mostly funded by the manufacturer, the Pillar Procedure has an effectiveness rate of 80% or more in reducing or eliminating snoring. It's essential to note, however, that the success rate can depend on various factors, such as the structure of an individual's mouth, the soft palate, and the correct positioning of the pillars by the doctor.

4. How long does the Pillar procedure last?

The effects of the Pillar Procedure are designed to be long-lasting. The immediate effects might not be noticeable until 4-6 weeks after the procedure as the body begins to heal. It takes between 3-12 months for the scar tissue to fully encase the implants and provide the desired stiffening effect on the soft palate. The implants themselves remain in the soft palate indefinitely, and the scar tissue around them also remains, providing a long-term solution against snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

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