By: Dr. Joette Giovinco, FOX 13 Medical Reporter - bio
TAMPA (FOX 13) -
It's something every snorer - or their partner - has experienced: that gentle nudge or elbow poke in the middle of the night to silence the snore.
It's a problem that affects about 90 million Americans. While half are "simple snorers," the other half may have a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a condition that can lead to weight gain, memory loss, and possibly heart attack, stroke or sudden death.
Now there's a new way to treat the condition: a tiny device called Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation. It might just silence the snore.
"We knew it was good technology, we didn't know how good of technology," said Dr. Tapan Padhya, with Tampa General Hospital and University of South Florida Health. He was part of a nationwide team testing a new sleep apnea fix. It's now promising to change the lives of millions.
Sixty-one year old Jim Heston is one of those patients. Jim has obstructive sleep apnea and tried using a high-pressure mask called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) but that option failed.
"I didn't think it was going to get a whole lot better at that point," he said.
Sleep studies showed Jim was waking up just about once a minute -- 56 times an hour.
The results were a shock to Jim.
"I was concerned, I would have never guessed that at all," he said.
Dr. Padhya admits he also suffers from sleep apnea and knows the negative effects firsthand.
"If you're not getting a quality night's sleep, over weeks, months, years -- it does catch up with you," he says.
In obstructive sleep apnea, the airway is blocked.
"The very back of the tongue is a common area of obstruction. So when you're lying on your back, the tongue falls back to the back of the throat, causing obstruction to the air flow and oxygen," Dr. Padhya explains.
He's testing a kind of tongue pacemaker...surgically implanted to help alleviate the problem.
Animation from the manufacturer shows a power pack -- surgically implanted under the collar bone -- similar to that of a heart pacemaker.
The unit senses current from the rib cage as the patient starts to take a breath. That impulse is transmitted to another wire attached to a nerve in the neck. The nerve controls the tongue, pushing it forward with each breath.
Dr. Padhya says the results were amazing.
Eighty-five percent of patients noticed improvement with the sleep device on, and we were extremely happy with that.
Jim says it didn't take long to get used to the device, but admits the first time he used it was a strange feeling.
"It felt like someone was taking a pair of pliers, and taking my tongue out of my mouth. My tongue was being forced forward," he said.
Jim uses a remote to add or take away the stimulation at night. He has gone from waking up 56 times an hour to averaging about seven.
"It's allowed my wife to sleep better, and that's a good thing. I felt good, I felt normal, I felt well-rested. It was something I haven't felt in a while. It was a good feeling," he said.
The FDA has not yet approved the Inspire device for use in the United States. It is approved in other countries; Dr. Padhya says it's currently under review by the FDA.
According to the Sleep Apnea Association:
"Understanding the differences between sleep apnea and primary snoring is the first step to effective treatment of both conditions. For all the people across the country who are getting nudged or elbowed throughout the night from frustrated bed partners, it's important to know what their snoring means, and how they can silence it.
If you or your partner is a frequent loud snorer, stops breathing, gasps or chokes during sleep, experiences excessive restlessness at night or feels sleepy during the day, you may want to bring it up with your doctor to see whether a sleep study is necessary. ]
Taking this first step to get tested prior to beginning any treatment prevents inaccurate self-diagnosis, inadequate treatment, and/or premature dismissal of the problem. Your primary care physician will be able to refer you to a sleep specialist."