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New Study Shows Safe Electronic Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Usually a patient who is trying to treat sleep apnea will be prescribed a CPAP machine to use while they are sleeping. This is usually effective, and many people need some time to adjust to using it, as it can be disruptive and uncomfortable at first. CPAP machines are the first and so far, best line of treatment for people who don’t want their obstructive sleep apnea to have an effect on them during the day.

The results of a new study were presented on June 5th at “Sleep 2013”, 27th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. The study was conducted on a small electrical device that is implanted in the mouth, which sends out tiny electrical impulses to the main nerve of the tongue, called the hypoglossal nerve. The electrical impulses are meant to tone the muscle of the throat, so that the throat doesn’t close up during sleep, which will also prevent snoring.

The leading author of the study is Kingman Strohl, MD, who is the principal investigator for the University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center site, and professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, as well as and Ryan Soose, MD and Patrick Strollo, MD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

There were 126 participants in the study who received the implant, and they were monitored over the course of 1 year to see how well their sleep apnea had improved. Their Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) and Oxygen Desaturation Index were read, which are two scales used to measure the severity of sleep apnea. The course of the study saw significant improvements in many of the participants.

This new sleep apnea treatment may still take years until it is ready to be used by all doctors and patients. It will still need further testing, and it will most likely be much more pricey than buying a CPAP machine, at least for a long time. There is also the fact that it takes at least a year to see significant improvements. As the treatment is worked on, they might be able to make it work more quickly. Obstructive sleep apnea patients may have to be patient for this treatment to become available.

Sleep apnea is surprisingly common among many people, and even more people aren’t aware that they have it. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea (CSA), which happens when the brain doesn’t properly signal to take a breath at certain times during sleep. It’s estimated that over 18 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea. OSA happens when the muscles in the throat relax too much and close during sleep.

Until this electrical stimulation technology is widely available, sleep apnea patients who suffer during the day from fatigue due to lack of oxygen during the night, can use a CPAP machine to treat it. A CPAP machine can be a standard “fixed” flow only, or an Automatic flow that varies in air pressure according to your breathing patterns. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea, so that you can have it treated properly.

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