Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation™ is a relatively new treatment available for patients with obstructive sleep apnea who do not tolerate or do not benefit from positive airway pressure therapy. Keck Medical Center of USC was the first center in the western United States to offer this therapy. Our team has substantial experience with this approach, with expertise in selecting patients who will respond best to this treatment and in performing the surgery.
The tongue can play a major role in obstructive sleep apnea. During sleep, the muscles in the body relax, which may lead to the tongue falling back and blocking breathing in the throat. The Upper Airway Stimulation™ system uses similar technology to that in heart pacemakers to stimulate the hypoglossal nerve, which controls tongue movement. All components of the system are placed inside the body during a surgical procedure. A pulse generator is placed on top of the pectoralis (chest) muscle and is connected to two leads. The system is turned on during sleep using a remote control. When on, the pulse generator sends a mild signal through a stimulation lead to the hypoglossal nerve in the neck. This moves the tongue forward and can pull the soft palate (roof of the mouth) forward as well, opening up the entire throat for breathing. The system measures breathing patterns so that the nerve stimulation occurs only when a patient is breathing in. This does not wake patients from sleep because the device is inside the body and does not cause any pain.
Research results on the system have been published in major scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine. Studies have shown that two out of three patients who received the Upper Airway Stimulation™ device achieved substantial improvement or resolution of their sleep apnea. The study also showed that for patients who responded well to Upper Airway Stimulation™, sleep apnea returned when the device was turned off for a month but cleared up again when it was turned back on. The study showed a clear benefit to treatment with the Upper Airway Stimulation™ system.
The team at Keck Medicine of USC has treated many patients who have had tremendous benefit from Upper Airway Stimulation™. Hear one patient’s story below on how Upper Airway Stimulation™ helped him overcome sleep apnea.
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