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December 28, 2010

Pacemaker To Cure Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

The Huffington Post on Dec 27, 2010 published a story about a potential new treatment whose goal is  obstructive sleep apnea cure (OSA) cure using a pacemaker made by Inspire Medical... for the tongue. The New York Times also published a similar story more recently about the same device on 1/8/2014.

The device works by stimulating the nerve going to the tongue (hypoglossal nerve) to contract with every breath a person takes while sleeping.

Why would this help? In some patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue falls backward against the throat's back wall (tongue prolapse) causing airway obstruction. By stimulating the tongue's nerve, the tongue is stimulated to move forward when a patient takes a breath preventing obstruction.

Of course, this treatment works ONLY if the obstruction is due to tongue prolapse.

There are other treatments that also accomplish the same thing including:

Base of tongue coblation/reduction
• Geniohyoid advancement
• Repose procedure
• Oral appliance

At least in our office, we only offer the base of tongue reduction to address tongue prolapse that may lead to obstructive sleep apnea.

This pacemaker for the tongue is currently experimental and not available for the general public yet.

Sources:
Sleep Apnea: Experiments Test If Implant Can Block Sleep Problem. Huffington Post 12/27/10

For Sleep Apnea Patients, a Possible Alternative to Masks. NYT 1/8/14

Reference:
Upper-Airway Stimulation for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. New England Journal of Medicine. January 9, 2014DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1308659
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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