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Is Inspire Sleep Apnea Treatment Right for You?

You may have seen this commercial. It's the "struggling with CPAP support group," and a few members sit in a circle wearing various CPAP masks. A group member admits that he tried sleeping with CPAP but struggled with the masks and hoses. Now, he manages his sleep apnea from inside his body with the new Inspire sleep apnea treatment—activated with the click of a remote.

If you currently use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device to manage obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you KNOW what it's like. Yes, you may sleep GREAT using CPAP. But that mask and hose strapped across your face and nose? They feel and look awkward.

The experts know—CPAP isn't for everyone. And if you've tried it, don't like it, and won't use it, it may be time to see if this new type of sleep apnea treatment is right for you. Here's what you need to know.

What is Inspire sleep apnea treatment? 

"Inspire was FDA-approved in 2014 and is a new treatment class for OSA," states Gabriel Wong, MD, otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat) and sleep medicine specialist. "This is the first OSA treatment in the United States that uses upper airway stimulation. It keeps your tongue from falling backward and blocking your airway, resulting in more restful sleep."

The device has an 11-year battery life and is placed in your body through two small incisions during an outpatient procedure that's done under general anesthesia. Dr. Wong explains: "A sensor is attached to the nerve that controls your tongue. A small electrical device is then implanted right under your skin on the right side of your chest. Once the electrical device is turned on, it sends a pulse to the sensor, moving your tongue out of the way, so it doesn't obstruct your breathing."

Dr. Wong notes: "About a month after it's implanted, your surgeon turns on the device and fine-tunes the level of nerve stimulation you receive. You'll have a sleep study three to four months after using the device to see if upper airway stimulation has decreased or stopped your sleep apnea. Your doctor may adjust the nerve stimulation level again if needed. After that, you'll follow up with your doctor twice a year to ensure the device and settings are still working," he states.

The risks with this procedure are minimal and include infection, bleeding, tongue weakness, and lip weakness. There's also a chance that it could improve your sleep apnea but not cure it.

How do you know if this sleep apnea treatment is right for you? 

Your surgeon starts with an evaluation to see if you're a good candidate for Inspire. This includes a drug-induced sleep endoscopy (DISE) to examine your airway and check if your tongue is causing your OSA.

Other qualifications include:

  • Diagnosis of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea
  • Tried CPAP and struggled with it or was unable to use it consistently
  • Body mass index (BMI) less than 32 (varies by insurance) or less than 35 for Medicare
  • Age 18 or older

If you're not a good candidate for this new treatment and CPAP isn't for you, there are still other available treatment options, including:

  • Lifestyle changes: losing weight, sleeping on your side, and not drinking alcohol before you go to sleep
  • Oral appliances: using an oral device similar to a mouth guard that brings your jaw forward or holds your tongue in place
  • Surgery: removing tonsils and/or adenoids or soft tissue at the back of your palate

Dr. Wong advises talking to your primary care provider or pulmonologist about treatment options that might work for you.

Why choose Virtua for Inspire sleep apnea treatment? 

Dr. WongDr. Saba AftabDr. Kartik Dandu, and Dr. Nikolaus Hjelm were the first ENT surgeons in South Jersey to implant Inspire and have implanted more than 100 devices since 2020. They provide surgical treatment at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, Summit Surgical Center, and Virtua Center for Surgery – Washington Township.

Call 888-847-8823 to schedule a consultation.

Updated October 14, 2022

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