Timothy Dettmer, MD, a board certified ENT physician at MercyOne North Iowa at Mason City Clinic outlines the chronic symptoms and dangers of obstructive sleep apnea and a new minimally invasive procedure called the Inspire Implant that is helping many people with sleep apnea breath better at night, as well as increase their quality of life.
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Timothy Dettmer, MD:
In ENT, we see people with obstructive sleep apnea because there’s an airway problem essentially. At night time, when people are sleeping, there’s collapse of the soft tissues in the airway, like the tongue and the tonsils and the soft palate. Sometimes the throat walls collapse inward when people are relaxed and sleeping, and that causes that snoring sound. And sometimes as it progresses and worsens, people actually have obstructive sleep apnea. And then that, people stop breathing temporarily. And they don’t even know it because you don’t wake up completely. But at the same time, your brain doesn’t get the good restful sleep when there’s that constant disruptive sleep. And it leads to a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood, too. We call that hypoxia. Hypoxia can be dangerous when it’s repetitive like that.
Because we know that when people have sleep apnea that’s significant, it can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiac disease and heart attacks. Cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, these things are much more common in people who have untreated sleep apnea. And not only that, but it makes people feel crummy in the daytime if they’re not sleeping well. They have a decreased focusing and concentration in the daytime. They have a lot of tiredness and fatigue, an increased risk of getting in car accidents from falling asleep behind the wheel. We see a lot of people who have headaches because of untreated sleep apnea as well. And so really, to diagnose that, our first step would be to get a sleep study. Now, as people get into more of the moderate to severe sleep apnea range, then we definitely recommend the positive airway pressure machines like the CPAP machines. And if that’s a struggle for people, which is unfortunately common with CPAP machines, then sometimes we have other surgical options for them.
I’m really excited that now we have a great option for people if they have moderate to severe sleep apnea, have tried the CPAP and it hasn’t worked, and that option is called the Inspire Implant. And the Inspire Implant is an implant we put in people that helps keep the tongue from falling back into the airway. And so it’s a surgical implant that is done as a fairly simple outpatient surgery, and there’s minimal pain afterwards. And then once we activate the implant, people use it at nighttime and they turn it on when they go to sleep. And then it functions by keeping the tongue from falling back into the airway, so that the back of the airway can stay open. People don’t wake up when that happens, they don’t really feel it. And it’s been providing excellent results. They’ve been so happy with it, has been really giving people their lives back.
When people have their Inspire Implant, it’s a two hour surgery on average and it’s an outpatient surgery. When people go home, it’s not turned on yet. We have to let things heal up. But it gets activated six weeks after surgery, and then people can start using it. And we’re seeing that in general, it really decreases that apnea hypopnea index by about 85%, which means that it gets people down to the very mild and normal range. And when that happens, we’re seeing that 90% of people are just really happy with it. Their symptoms improve and the daytime. Those medical risks of sleep apnea are decreased significantly. Patients who are interested in the Inspire Implant for treating the sleep apnea can call and make their own appointments. We’re happy to meet with you and talk to you about it and see if you might be a candidate.