Inspire sleep apnea treatment explained

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Snoring and feeling tired even after a full night's sleep can signal sleep apnea, a condition that causes a person to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. CPAP has been the go-to treatment. The Inspire system is an option for those who fail CPAP.

Alan Nadel has always had insomnia. But something new cropped up a few years ago.

"My wife noticed that I didn't, sometimes while I was asleep, didn't seem to be breathing," he said.

A sleep study confirmed Nadel had sleep apnea.

"They said it was in the moderate range, it was under 30 times an hour," he said.

Dr. Maria Elena Vega-Sanchez of Temple Health said untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous.

"Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, daytime sleepiness, which puts patients at risk of motor vehicle accidents," she said.

Nadel, a writer and college professor, was very worried it would affect his thinking. But he couldn't sleep with a CPAP mask. So Dr. Karl Whitley suggested the Inspire system.

You may have seen the ads that tout the system uses no mask, no hose, just sleep.

Inspire uses a pacemaker implanted in the chest and a wire under the skin to the underside of the tongue. It treats the reason people repeatedly stop breathing and wake up.

"That involves the base of the tongue falling back along the pharynx, or along the wall of the throat," explained Dr. Whitley.

"Inspire will monitor your breathing through the night and will keep the airway open, send it, by sending stimulation to the muscles of the upper airway including the tongue," said Dr. Vega-Sanchez.

A remote control turns it on at bedtime, and off when you get up.

To qualify, patients must:

  • Have failed CPAP therapy
  • Have a Body Mass Index of 32 or less
  • Stop breathing between 15 and 65 times an hour
  • And have an airway that closes in the right spot

Nadel gets another sleep study soon to recheck his sleep apnea rate.

"I can feel it working. So I'm sure it's reducing the number," he said.

Nadel said portability is another plus to Inspire. He travels a lot, but only needs to take the remote control, instead of full CPAP gear.
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