The standard treatment for sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing to be briefly but repeatedly interrupted throughout sleep, is currently a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The problem is that the machines are bulky and can be uncomfortable. Scientists now say that for many, an implantable device can provide the needed relief.
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.
The implantable cranial nerve upper airway stimulation device is inserted in the neck and chest via surgery, and is activated by patients at bedtime with a remote control. The device is designed to open upper airway passages during sleep.
A research team recently followed 116 sleep apnea patients for 36 months following implantation of the device. Ten other patients who had the device implanted dropped out of the study. All had previously tried and failed to stick with using their CPAP machines. The treatment was effective for more than half of the patients, based on sleepiness levels, sleep-related quality of life, diminished snoring and oxygen intake levels.
The researchers noted that while this treatment does appear to be effective for many, the use of a CPAP machine is obviously much less invasive.