New Sleep Apnoea / Apnea Treatment

Wed, Oct 12, 2011

Sleep apnoea / apnea treatment may have taken a significant step forward, according to research currently being done by University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

The new treatment for apnoea / apnea involves an implantable electronic device designed to deliver mild stimulation to the main nerve of the tongue -- the hypoglossal nerve -- on each breathing cycle during sleep.

This stimulation is intended to restore tone to the muscles that control the base of the tongue, which prevent the tongue from collapsing and obstructing the airway during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea / apnea is know to reduce the quality of sleep, leading to a range of side effects and conditions including excessive daytimes sleepiness, reduced cognitive ability, acid reflux, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Unlike other surgical procedures, this device doesn't require removing or permanently altering a patient's facial or airway anatomy. Instead, the stimulator is implanted under the skin in the upper chest. A wire leads from the stimulator to the hypoglossal nerve in the neck while another wire off the stimulator gauges the air pressure from breathing. The patient uses a hand-held control to turn on the stimulator at bedtime and off when getting up in the morning.

The study is being conducted at leading medical centers across the United States and in Europe.

"Studies have shown that sleep apnea is as prevalent as adult diabetes and asthma, and the consequences of OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] range from disruptive to life-threatening," said Dr. Kingman Strohl, principal investigator.

While many patients have found help with continuous positive air pressure through CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure] therapy, for some patients it is too difficult to comply with, and thus ineffective.  In the past, the only professional treatment alternatives have been OAT (oral appliance therapy) or surgical intervention to remove or tension excess tissue in the upper airway and oral cavity. 

Let's hope this new form of treatment proves viable.