Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Shocking Treatment for Sleep Apnea: Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

People in the market for CPAP alternatives may soon have another option. If surgery is not recommended and if they are not a candidate for oral appliance therapy, they may be interested in an experimental treatment that is being developed by not one, but three medical technology companies: hypoglossal nerve stimulation.

In hypoglossal nerve stimulation, a pacemaker-like device is implanted under the skin with two leads that terminate near the lungs and another that connects to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the genioglossus muscle, which is partly responsible for keeping the airway open. When the systems sense an effort to breathe, they stimulate the hypoglossal nerve, essentially mimicking the role the brain would play in reopening the airway, but without the brain's involvement so a patient keeps sleeping and does not experience the period of wakefulness that can be so disruptive in obstructive sleep apnea patients.

One of the companies--Inspire Medical Systems, a spin-off of Medtronic--has received FDA approval to test the technology. Inspire Medical Systems has already implanted one patient with the device, and is enrolling 100 more potential subjects to begin testing by the end of January.

It is unknown whether this device will prove successful in treating obstructive sleep apnea, but we hope so. The more options, the better the likelihood that the 12 million sufferers of this deadly condition will be able to find a cure that fits them. To learn more about all available treatment options, talk to a local sleep dentist today.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 2:21 PM