Implanted Device May Help Ease Sleep Apnea, Small Study Shows

Implanted Device May Help Ease Sleep Apnea, Small Study Shows

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) — An implantable pacemaker-like device might improve sleep patterns and quality of life for people with sleep apnea, a new study contends.

The treatment, called cranial nerve stimulation, is designed to open upper airway passages during sleep. In a small study, roughly four of five recipients were still using the patient-controlled device nearly three years after implantation surgery.

That’s important, said the researchers, given that more than half of sleep apnea patients fail to stick with the current standard of care — a nasal mask and pump known as “continuous positive airway pressure,” or CPAP.

“Sleep apnea probably affects about 10 percent of the middle-aged adult population,” said study lead author Dr. B. Tucker Woodson, a professor and chief of sleep medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “It’s common. And CPAP is the most common device that is currently used as a treatment to hold the airway open overnight.”

However, many patients are unable to use CPAP successfully, he said. Some find it uncomfortable and can’t tolerate the mask and the pressure. “It can even make their sleep worse, not better,” he added.

“But with this implantable device what we’ve seen is an almost normalization of their sleep problems, along with a very promising level of long-term adherence,” Woodson said.

He and his colleagues are scheduled to discuss their findings this week at a meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation in Dallas. Until the results are published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the data and conclusions should be considered preliminary.

Their work was funded by the device manufacturer, Inspire Medical Systems of Maple Grove, Minn.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which breathing is briefly but repeatedly interrupted throughout sleep. It’s associated with a higher long-term risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease, alongside diminished energy and mental sharpness.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, age, genetics and modifiable lifestyle factors — such as being overweight — are thought to play a role in sleep apnea.

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