New study offers new hope for sleep apnea suffers

Upper-Airway Stimulation improved breathing, quality of life in patients

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is a way to decrease the risks associated with obstructive sleep apnea.  But for varying reasons, it's not for everyone. A new study finds Upper-Airway Stimulation can also decrease the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.

"The severity of the disease significantly decreased. They also found that the sleepiness scores, as reported by the patients improved with this therapy," explained Dr. Harneet Walia, who did not take part in the study but treats obstructive sleep apnea at Cleveland Clinic.

The Upper-Airway Stimulation device is implanted in the chest. It is designed to keep the tongue from collapsing and blocking the airway during sleep.

University of Pittsburgh researchers studied its effects on 126 people, 83% of them were men.  They found Upper-Airway Stimulation significantly improved breathing, reduced the effects of sleep apnea, and improved quality of life.

Researchers think it can provide benefit to people with obstructed sleep apnea who have difficulty either accepting or adhering to CPAP therapy.

Walia says the results are promising because obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition.

"This is associated with a variety of cardiovascular consequences, that is increased risk of arrhythmias, increased risk of stroke, increased risk of heart attacks," said Walia.

Complete findingss for this study are in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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