Inspire Stimulator Gives Sleep Apnea Suffers Their Lives and Good Sleep Back
Mike Freeman’s snoring was so bad that his family and friends couldn’t stand to be near him when he slept. He had a severe case of sleep apnea, but it was an Internet ad that caused him to reach out to an ENT surgeon at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Freeman said he was diagnosed with the condition in 1995, which hindered him and others he slept with to get a good night’s rest.
And, he’s not alone. 18 million Americans suffer from the sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea (like in Freeman’s case). With OSA, the tongue and soft tissue block the airway, which can cause pausing between breaths or shallow breathing.
And, the snoring isn’t half the problem – sleep apnea raises the possibility of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and heart failure. Since it causes disruption in sleep, it could potentially lead to traffic and workplace accidents due to the sleepiness.
When Freeman was diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor prescribed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which is extremely effective to people who can tolerate it. However, nearly half of patients who use it don’t like it. Freeman tried it but never could get the benefit out of it.
What Does The Inspire Device Do? How Does It Work?
Freeman saw an Internet ad for Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation, an implantable stimulator for sleep apnea, which involves a breathing sensor, small battery/computer and stimulation lead. The device is implanted in a short surgery and works to constantly keep an eye on the user’s breathing while they’re asleep and provide stimulation to the primary airway muscles so that the soft tissues and tongue don’t get in the way of the airway.
UAB Department of Otolaryngology in the School of Medicine and the first Alabama surgeon to implant the device Dr. Kirk Withrow said OSA happens because there is a loss in muscle tone that occurs when people are sleeping, which causes the soft tissue and tongue to block the airway. The device keeps those muscles stimulated to ensure normal airflow occurs during sleep.
Freeman learned, after reaching out to Withrow that he qualified for the procedure, which includes failing at the CPAP or other sleep apnea treatments, and who have the kind of obstruction that responds to the device’s electrical stimulus.
The device is placed inside the chest, with the stimulation lead being position adjacent to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the tongue’s movement. For most patients, it’s an outpatient surgical procedure. In a month and during a clinical visit, the device will be turned on. Patients will use a remote control to turn on the device when they go to bed and off when they wake up.
Freeman got the device implanted in January, and turned it on for the first time on Feb. 15. He said he never wakes up when it’s working and he sleep better than he has in decades. He said he leaves the CPAP machine alone and uses the device when backpacking. His friends were happy with the results.
Withrow said it’s a great alternative to the various surgical methods in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
There are 65 percenters around the nation who use the Inspire device, which has had a high success rate in patients who suffer from OSA.