Health Blog

Welcome to the ongoing series of blog posts from UTMB Health focusing on key aspects of maintaining your health

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Beyond the CPAP: An Innovative Sleep Apnea Therapy Option

A good night’s sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, allowing the mind and body time to rest and recharge. But those with sleep apnea may find a restful night elusive.

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine—consisting of a mask connected to a machine that is operated nightly—is the most common intervention for the diagnosis of sleep apnea, increasing air pressure in the throat so that the airway doesn’t collapse when breathing in.

However, Dr. Rizwana Sultana, UTMB Health sleep medicine specialist, says CPAP is not effective for everyone, as some people with claustrophobia experience anxiety and discomfort with CPAP.

A New Option for Sleep Apnea

Over the past year and half Dr. Sultana has worked with Dr. Hisham A. Marwan, UTMB Health oral and maxillofacial surgeon, to offer an innovative solution for adults—Inspire, a relatively new treatment option that stimulates the airway muscles, helping prevent airway obstruction during sleep.

“When the patient falls asleep and the airway is obstructed, the stimulator will work and push the tongue forward,” Dr. Marwan says. “It will help them alleviate the problem of sleep apnea.”

Inspire is recommended for adults with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea with a BMI under 32, who are otherwise healthy enough to undergo surgery.

The device is implanted during a short outpatient procedure, and Dr. Marwan says there is minimal pain, and you can usually resume normal activities within a few days. The device is activated four to six weeks following implantation, and a month after activation the individual returns for a sleep study and fine tuning to fully activate the device.

“It can take two to three months from the time they have surgery until the device is fully activated, but those who have been through the process are using the therapy and they are happy,” Dr. Sultana says.

If someone is experiencing poor results from CPAP is not a candidate for Inspire due to the severity of their airway obstruction or other factors, there are other options that may help them achieve relief and a better quality of life.

For people whose sleep apnea is less severe, the solution may be as simple as an oral appliance, a device similar to a mouth guard that advances the position of the jaw or holds the tongue in place to keep the airway open. Individuals with very severe sleep apnea may find relief from surgery.

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at UTMB Health is committed to excellence in the care of patients needing a variety of surgeries of the face and mouth. To learn more about surgical options for sleep apnea and more, visit www.utmbhealth.com/services/oral-and-maxillofacial-surgery.

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