New therapy for obstructive sleep apnea and snoring

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Snoring may be an irritating phenomenon depriving you of good sleep. It can signal sleep apnea and may lead to even a heart attack.

Researchers are testing if an implanted pacemaker like device might help certain sufferers, keeping their airways open by zapping the tongue during sleep.

One of the main causes of obstructive sleep apnea is that the tongue and throat muscles relax too much during sleep, enough to temporarily collapse and block breathing for 30 seconds or so at a time. The person jerks awake and gasps, a cycle that can repeat itself 30 or more times an hour, depriving patients of crucial deep sleep.

Researchers from the Minneapolis-based Inspire Medical Systems will soon begin to test the novel treatment. They hope that by the end of January they will enroll 100 U.S. and European patients whose condition is caused by a slack tongue.

Doctors will implant the device beneath the skin near the collarbone and wire it to a nerve in the tongue. It will sense when a person takes a breath, triggering the zap. This new approach, while only in its initial stages, could prove more effective than CPAP, the current standard treatment in which users don a mask at bedtime that blows air through the nose to keep airways open.

Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) therapy is designed to significantly reduce the burden of obstructive sleep apnea by delivering mild stimulation to the upper airway during sleep.

Inspire therapy is a small, fully implantable system that utilizes well-established technologies from the fields of cardiac pacing and neurostimulation. Inspire therapy is currently available only through clinical trials at select medical centers in the United States and Europe.

Source: Inspire Medical Systems, USA

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