OSA is characterized by repeated episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep due to narrowing or blockage. This can cause patients to stop breathing during sleep. Repeated episodes of apnea can lead to daytime fatigue, increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and even death. Treatments include weight loss, upper airway surgeries, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is considered the primary treatment for OSA. But unfortunately, due to the discomfort with the CPAP mask and having to be tethered to a machine, up to 50 percent of patients don’t use it.
Patients who participated in the multicenter apnea study, led by Patrick Strollo, M.D., professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center, all underwent surgery to implant the device. The device stimulates the nerve of the tongue during sleep, thereby enlarging and stabilizing the airway and improving control of breathing.
Here, we ask Al Friedl and Kathy Gaberson, both part of the trial that tested the Inspire therapy, about their experiences with OSA and with the new technology.
Q: What was your experience with sleep apnea before you started using the Inspire device?
Al: I had a horrible sleeping experience. The idea of sleeping through the night was non-existent, and when nighttime came I was terrified. I finally heard about CPAP and my experience was better, but not ideal – I never got used to the thing, and had to wait until I was drop dead tired to use the machine. Some people like the snug effect of the machine, but not me. I used it for 5 or 6 years, and then switched to using a simple mouth guard which provided the same function but was a little more comfortable. But it still wasn’t ideal.
Al: After a few tweaks of getting the stimulation “dosage” to be right for me, I feel so much better. I sleep through the night almost every night. There are only a few nights each month where I don’t sleep well, but I’m 83 so that’s pretty good!