Sleep apnea sufferers who suffer from CPAP may want to try a new treatment

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SO SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE? WE SPOKE TO SURGEON AND DON PARSONS, WHO HAS SUFFERED FROM THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF SLEEP APNOEA FOR 25 YEARS. >> I WOULD GET TO DATE AT 5:30 AT NIGHT AND DREAM BEFORE DINNER, JUST TRYING TO MAKE UP THOSE LOST HOURS OF SLEEP. >> DON HAS TRIED DENTAL APPLIANCES AND DIFFERENT C-PAP MACHINES. LIKE HALF OF SLEEP APNEA PATIENTS, HE JUST COULDN’T STAND THEM. THEN HE READ ABOUT AN IMPLANTATION TREATMENT CALLED INSPIRE. HE CAME TO DR. SUNNY HUFT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND MEDICAL CENTER. >> THE MAIN WAY IT WORKS IS TO STIMULATE THE BACK OF THE TONGUE TO PUSH FORWARD. MOST PEOPLE WITH SLEEP APNEA BECAUSE THEIR TONGUE TRAPS IN THEIR THROAT AND BLOCKS THE AIR PASSAGE. THAT’S WHY IT’S CALLED OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA. >> DR. HAFT SAYS INSPIRE SURGERY IS SIMPLE. >> THE CUT APPEARS ABOUT AS LARGE AS A CHEST CUT. THE STIMULATOR PASSES ON THE NERVES OF THE TONGUE. >> DR. HAFT ALSO PLACES AN OREO COOKIE-SIZED DEVICE IN THE PATIENT’S CHEST, WHICH YOU ACTIVATE USING THIS MOUSE-LIKE MECHANISM. >> IT WILL BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHEN I GO IN, PUSH MY TONGUE FORWARD SETTING THE PULSE — SEND A PULSE FROM HERE THAT WILL MOVE MY TONGUE FORWARD. HERE WE GO. >> DON SAYS THE PULSE DOESN’T HURT AND IT WON’T WAKE HIM UP. THIS ALL SOUNDS WONDERFUL, BUT WHAT’S THE CAUSE? OK, THERE ARE STRICT CRITERIA WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR INSPIRE. YOU SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO TAKE THE C-PAP MACHINE, WHICH IS STILL THE GOLD STANDARD OF TREATMENT. YOU MUST HAVE MODERATE TO SEVERE SLEEP APNEA. YOU MUST HAVE A BMI LESS THAN 35. YOU MUST NOT HAVE CENTRAL SLEEP APNOEA WHICH IS A BRAIN PROBLEM NOT A LANGUAGE PROBLEM. AND IT TAKES MORE TIME THAN JUST AN HOUR OF SURGERY. >> YOU HAVE A MONTH TO FIX IT BEFORE WE EVEN TURN IT ON. THEN YOU COME BACK TO THE OFFICE AND ACTIVATE IT. WE ACTIVATE IT AT A VERY LOW LEVEL. AND THERE ARE A LOT OF LEVELS THAT WE ARE BREAKING WEEK BY WEEK. AND FINALLY PATIENTS FIND OUT WHERE THEY SLEEP BEST AND THAT MAY BE ON THE SEVENTH LEVEL. >> DR. HAFT SAYS THE INSPIRE HAS A 90% SATISFACTION RATE, AND IT’S AMAZING WHEN YOU TALK TO DON, WHO IS NOW RETIRED AND HAS A LOT OF ENERGY TO PLAY WITH HIS GRANDCHILDREN. >> I WASN’T anywhere near needing to take a nap. IN THE MORNING I FEEL refreshed when I wake up. IT WAS AWESOME. >> HE LOVES IT. AND AS DR. AS HAFT MENTIONED, THE INSPIRE TREATMENT REQUIRES ADDITIONAL VISIT AND SLEEP STUDIES TO DETERMINE THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF TONGUE STIMULATION. THERE ARE 10 DIFFERENT LEVELS. AND YOU ALSO HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN SO IT’S A BIT OF A PROCESS AS WELL. BUT AGAIN, THERE IS 90% SATISFACTION. THIS IS GOOD. >> I’M SURE A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT INSURANCE. DETECTED? >> IT GOES OVER THE BASIC

The new treatment of people who suffer from sleep apnea is satisfied by 90%.


For people with sleep apnea who have trouble using a continuous positive airway pressure machine, there is hope for a good night’s sleep. There is a new treatment for sleep apnea, but it requires surgery and is not for everyone. Don Parsons suffered from the debilitating effects of sleep apnea for 25 years. “I used to come home at night. I would get home at 5:30, 6 p.m., and I would take a nap before dinner, just trying to catch up on those lost hours of sleep,” Parsons said. Parsons tried dental appliances and various CPAP machines, but like half the people who suffer from sleep apnea, he just couldn’t tolerate them. Then he read about an implantable treatment called Inspire and went to see Dr. Sunny Heft, an otolaryngologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “The main way it works is that it stimulates the back of the tongue to push forward,” Haft said. “Most people have sleep apnea because their tongue falls back into their throat, and that blocks the flow of air, and that’s why it’s called obstructive sleep apnea.” Haft said Operation Inspire is simple. They get an incision,” Huft said, pointing under the jaw. “The stimulator goes along the nerve to the tongue.” Huft also places an Oreo-sized device in the patient’s chest that is activated by a mechanism similar to a computer mouse. “In the middle of the night, when I’m going into apnea, I’m sticking my tongue forward, I’m sending a pulse … that moves my tongue forward,” Parsons said. Parsons said the pulse doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t wake him up. It all sounds great, so what’s the catch? Well, there are strict criteria for who qualifies for Inspire, including: The patient must not be on a CPAP machine, which is still the gold standard of treatment.The patient must have moderate to severe sleep apnea. must have a body mass index below 35. The patient must not have central sleep apnea, which is a brain problem, not a language problem. The patient must also coordinate with a pulmonologist, so it’s a bit of a process. And it takes more than just an hour or so operations ii. “You have a month to heal before we even turn it on,” Haft said. “Then you go back to the office and activate it, and we activate it at a very low level.” Huft said the Inspire treatment requires additional follow-up visits and sleep studies to determine the appropriate level of tongue stimulation. because there are 10 different levels. “There are many levels. We go up week by week, and eventually patients figure out where they sleep best, and that might be level seven,” Haft said. the Inspire device has a 90% satisfaction rate, which isn’t surprising, according to Parsons, who is now retired and has plenty of energy to play with his grandchildren. “I feel refreshed in the morning when I wake up. It’s been amazing,” Parsons said. Inspire is covered by most major insurance companies, but of course the out-of-pocket cost depends on the plan.

For people with sleep apnea who have trouble using a continuous positive airway pressure machine, there is hope for a good night’s sleep.

There is a new treatment for sleep apnea, but it requires surgery and is not for everyone.

Don Parsons suffered from the debilitating effects of sleep apnea for 25 years.

“I used to come home at night. I would get home at 5:30, 6 p.m., and I would take a nap before dinner, just trying to catch up on those lost hours of sleep,” Parsons said.

Parsons tried dental appliances and various CPAP machines, but like half the people who suffer from sleep apnea, he just couldn’t tolerate them. Then he read about an implant treatment called Inspire and went to see Dr. Sunny Haft, an otolaryngologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“The main way it works is that it stimulates the back of the tongue to come forward,” Haft said. “Most people have sleep apnea because their tongue gets stuck in their throat and blocks air, and that’s why it’s called obstructive sleep apnea.”

Haft said Operation Inspire is simple.

“They’re getting a cut,” Huft said, pointing under the jaw. “The stimulant travels along the nerve to the tongue.”

Huft also places an Oreo cookie-sized device in the patient’s chest that is activated by a mechanism similar to a computer mouse.

“It will, in the middle of the night, when I go into apnea, push my tongue forward, send a pulse … that moves my tongue forward,” Parsons said.

Parsons said the pulse didn’t hurt or wake him up.

This all sounds great, so what’s the catch?

Well, there are strict criteria for who qualifies for Inspire, including:

  • The patient cannot tolerate the CPAP machine, which is still the gold standard of care.
  • The patient must have moderate to severe sleep apnea.
  • The patient must have a body mass index below 35.
  • The patient must not have central sleep apnea, which is a brain problem, not a language problem.

The patient must also coordinate his actions with the pulmonologist, so this is quite a complicated process. The surgery takes more time than just an hour or so.

“You have a month to heal before we even turn it on,” Haft said. “Then you go back to the office and activate it, and we activate at a very low level.”

Huft said the Inspire treatment requires additional follow-up visits and sleep studies to determine the appropriate level of tongue stimulation, as there are 10 different levels.

“There are many levels. We go up week by week, and eventually patients figure out where they sleep best, and that might be level seven,” Haft said.

Huft said the Inspire device has a 90 percent satisfaction rate, which may not be surprising to Parsons, who is now retired and has plenty of energy to play with his grandchildren.

“I didn’t even need to take a nap. I feel refreshed in the morning when I wake up. It was amazing,” Parsons said.

Inspire is covered by most major insurance companies, but of course the out-of-pocket cost depends on the plan.

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