Could a Pacemaker Work for Sleep Apnea?

Researchers say they’ve developed a pacemaker-like device that could cut the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by 70-percent.

A study with the device, developed at the University of Pittsburgh and called the Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) therapy, was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Standard treatments for OSA include weight loss, upper airway surgeries, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is considered the primary treatment for OSA.  Inspire therapy is a surgically implanted system that is designed to sense breathing patterns and deliver mild stimulation to a patient’s airway muscles to keep the airway open during sleep. The device uses proprietary technology that delivers stimulation therapy based on a patient’s unique breathing patterns.

“Inspire UAS therapy differs from other traditional sleep apnea devices and surgical procedures in that it targets the muscle tone of the throat rather than just the anatomy,” noted Ryan Soose, M.D., director of the Division of Sleep Surgery and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology. “Two thirds of patients using the Inspire UAS therapy device had successful control of their OSA although even more reported improvement in snoring, daytime sleepiness and quality of life measures. Eighty-six percent of patients were still using the device every night at the one year mark, which compares very favorably to CPAP.”

OSA is characterized by repeated episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep, due to narrowing or blockage. Patients with OSA stop breathing, known as apnea, frequently during sleep, often for a minute or longer, and over half of those with OSA are overweight. Repeated episodes of apnea can lead to daytime fatigue, and increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and even death.

Researchers have not released an estimate of how much more studying is needed to be done on the device, or when it might be available to the general public.

Source: News Release/Eurekalert