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Breathing and Sleeping Easier

Sleep apnea patients can rest easy with new Inspire therapy

By Nancy DiFiore

Sleeping is an ongoing nightmare for the approximately 18 million people in the U.S. who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. An involuntary pause in breathing during sleep, obstructive sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation and can lead to major health problems. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times during a single night, with breathing interruptions often lasting a minute or longer.

Compounding the problem, many patients can’t tolerate the main treatment for sleep apnea, which requires them to wear a mask over their noses and to inhale pressurized air that keeps breathing passages open. Now a new therapy is available that does not require a mask or oral appliance, works with the body’s natural breathing patterns and is simple to use. 

“This unobtrusive, convenient treatment may be able to help patients who suffer not only from the physical toll of sleep apnea, but the emotional distress of not having a treatment alternative available to them until now,” says Phillip LoSavio, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology and head of the Section of Sleep Surgery at Rush.

Keeping air flowing and eyes shut

While sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, it is more common among men, people who are overweight, and people over age 40. LoSavio warns that while sleep apnea is very common, it shouldn’t be ignored. 

“If left untreated, a lack of sleep can lead to many health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke,” he says. “Poor sleep can have a negative effect on your appetite, hormonal balance and even your immune system, which helps you fight off germs that you come in contact with on a daily basis.”

Until recently, there was little relief for sleep apnea patients who can’t tolerate treatment with devices that deliver continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP for short. “Many remove the device during sleep without knowing it, or give up and have been told there aren’t any other options,” LoSavio says.

Now he is offering a new treatment, called upper airway stimluation therapy, or Inspire therapy, to help those with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea who are unable to use CPAP. The FDA approved Inspire therapy in 2014.

“The therapy works from the inside out, using a small, implanted system that monitors breathing patterns during sleep. Based on a person’s unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild electrical stimulation to key airway muscles that help keep the airway open,” LoSavio explains.  

The device is turned on before sleeping and off in the morning using a wireless remote control. The implant procedure typically is performed in an outpatient setting with patients staying one night in the hospital for observation.

Rush is one of only two locations in the greater Chicago area to offer Inspire therapy. “I’m glad that we can make this new option available to patients who have suffered from unrelieved sleep apnea until now,” LoSavio says.

To learn more about the treatment, call (312) 942-7878.

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