PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) There is potential for a new device that is similar to a pace maker that would help people with sleep apnea.

An estimated 12 to 18 million people have the condition. There are products currently available that can help with sleep apnea, but they have to be placed in a mouth or strapped to someone’s face.

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Dr. Ryan Soose talked to KDKA’s Larry Richert about the new device.

What is sleep apnea? It is a common condition that, “the upper airways, get too narrow and too collapsible at night when people sleep,” says Dr. Soose.

Soose says there are different reasons people get sleep apnea and the symptoms are, “snoring and frequent wakening at night, headaches in the morning and tiredness in the day. It can also lead to other health risks.”

In severe conditions, short term memory loss and depression can occur as well as heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Soose says, “by far the CPAP has the most evidence of being the most effective tool at treating [sleep apnea], however its regular use is limited by the side effects that occur in many people due to the mask, the machine, the equipment itself and cumbersomeness of traveling with it.”

Soose says that only half of people who have the CPAP machine use it regularly due to the difficulty of using the machine.

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The new solution is a pacemaker like device that is implanted under the skin. The device, “targets the muscle tone of the throat,” to help stabilize it, Sooze says.

Dr. Soose says that “there is no cutting or rearranging of tissue in the throat,” calling less invasive.

He also says that the recovery time is quicker than traditional surgery — with probably a two-hour outpatient procedure.

When can you get one of these new devices?

Dr. Soose says his study is the first step in getting, “full FDA approval.” He says he expects approval by late spring or summer of 2014.

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Listen to the KDKA Morning News with Larry Richert and John Shumway every weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.