New Implantable Device May Help Sleep Apnea Sufferers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A new device may help people that suffer from sleep apnea.

A local high school chemistry teacher had worrisome nighttime symptoms.

“Very tired in the morning and everything hurt. My head hurt,” Jody Christophe said. “My husband would complain also. Not just the snoring, but I would quit breathing.”

“I stopped breathing for 90 seconds at a time.”

Jody tried CPAP, which worked well unless her nose was stuffy from allergies. She tried dental appliances, which she only used off and on.

“My jaw had to be so far out, it hurt,” she said.

“So, Jody came to me with a lot of the typical sleep-related symptoms, snoring, not sleeping well, waking up with headaches and just feeling exhausted and fatigued,” Dr. Ryan Soose said.

Her doctor thought she would be a good candidate for an implanted device called Inspire.

“You look like you would fit the qualifications on that, for the type of people it helped. He said, ‘Would you be interested?’ I said absolutely, I jumped on it. Absolutely,” she said.

People qualify if they have moderate to severe sleep apnea, and do not have enlarged tonsils, a small airway that completely collapses, obesity, or central sleep apnea, which can be related to heart disease and stroke.

The device goes in just under the skin like a pacemaker, with an electrode that senses breathing, and an electrode that goes to the nerve that moves the tongue.

“You just put the device on and it turns on, and it has a delay so you can fall asleep. It also has a pause if you get up in the middle of the night,” Jody said.

Jody likes not having to lug equipment when she travels, though she can’t go through metal detectors.

The research behind it was done right here in Pittsburgh, and it was FDA-approved in May. The $20,000 device with a ten-year battery life is covered by insurance. So far, the doctors at UPMC have done about 20 cases,

Programs across the area plan to follow suit.

“It also improved their oxygenation index at night. Quality of life measures, how people feel about their disease, life in general, and the sleepiness score were all improved with the addition of this device,” AGH Sleep Specialist Dr. Daniel Shade said. “We’re going to start offering this device next year, in January.”

“One thing, I feel good in the morning, and I can function in the afternoon, which, that wasn’t happening. And I can sleep with my husband again,” Jody said.

This is just one more tool doctors have to treat sleep apnea.

It could be that each individual patient might benefit from their own unique combination of therapies.

More from Dr. Maria Simbra
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