Implantable stimulation device reduces sleep apnea symptoms

An implantable, nerve-stimulating device shows promise to reduce the symptoms of obstructed sleep apnea in patients unable to tolerate standard therapy.

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation delivers mild stimulations to the patient's hypoglossal nerve — the nerve responsible for tongue movement — during sleep, resulting in an enlargement of the upper airway and improved airflow. The device monitors the patient's breathing patterns and stimulates the nerve when breathing pauses.

In a controlled study, researchers found that the HGNS reduced the number of breathing pauses in patients with OSA by 78 percent and lowered the amount of low blood oxygen events by 80 percent. The device showed consistent outcomes for three years after the device was implanted.

In a more recent uncontrolled study, researchers found patients experienced an average of 35 fewer breathing pauses one hour after the HGNS device was implanted, representing an 84 percent decrease.

The FDA approved HGNS in 2014 to treat OSA patients who do not respond to traditional treatments.

Richard Schwab, MD, lead author of the study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, recently presented these findings at the 30th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, held in Denver.

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