New Option for Sleepless Nights Due to Apnea

The Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) system uses sensors to prevent the tongue from blocking the upper airway, which helps patients continue to breathe while sleeping. This FDA-approved treatment now available at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital has allowed Ghatak to combat the exhaustion that impacted every area of his life.

December 17, 2014

With a Simple Click of a Button, Upper Airway Stimulation Improves Sleep Apnea, Restores Energy

Virginia businessman Sid Ghatak experienced years of restless nights due to his sleep apnea, a shallow breath or pause of 10 seconds or more while sleeping, until a new minimally-invasive treatment, upper airway stimulation, recharged and rejuvenated his body. The Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) system uses sensors to prevent the tongue from blocking the upper airway, which helps patients continue to breathe while sleeping. This FDA-approved treatment now available at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital has allowed Ghatak to combat the exhaustion that impacted every area of his life.

Sid Ghatak, Upper Airway Stimulation patient"Before, I was constantly tired at the office, while driving and really exhausted all the time," Ghatak said. "But now, it's like my sleep apnea has been taken away. I have more energy, and overall, I'm a much a happier person. Everyone in my family has noticed my change in mindset and mood."

Ghatak was one of the first patients to undergo the UAS procedure at MedStar Georgetown. With a BMI of less than 32, a moderate level of sleep apnea, and an incompatibility with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), Ghatak was the perfect candidate for the procedure, according to Suzette Mikula, MD, otolaryntologist and ENT surgeon. Dr. Mikula has been specially trained in UAS and surgically implanted Ghatak's stimulator.

"Many of my patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome suffer from sleep deprivation, are exhausted and have cognitive impairment, and it affects their everyday life. Upper Airway Stimulation improves sleep apnea, quality of life and, we hope, prevention against other problems caused by apnea and lack of sleep. This procedure’s benefits could be life changing," said Dr. Mikula. "And the most exciting thing about upper airway stimulation is the potential to successfully treat patients with moderate to severe apnea without painful upper airway surgery or the CPAP device."

When Dr. Mikula first learned about the procedure, she was immediately interested in incorporating the procedure into her practice. More than half of the patients diagnosed with sleep apnea do not use CPAP, according to Dr. Mikula, so she knew that many of her patients with sleep apnea could benefit. The UAS system's less invasive approach and faster recovery than other upper airway surgeries is only for patients who meet the following criteria:

  • have a BMI of less than 32
  • pass a drug-induced sleep endoscopy
  • have moderate to severe level of sleep apnea
  • have failed or are noncompliant with CPAP

The design of the UAS surgery requires only three small incisions made in the chest and neck. Dr. Mikula uses two incisions to implant a small stimulator in the chest and a small sensor in the muscles around the lung. The incision in the neck gives the surgeon access to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the tongue's movement and plays a key role in fighting a patient's sleep apnea. A relaxed tongue can block breathing through the throat. To combat the blockage of the upper airway, the UAS device is attached to the hypoglossal nerve to sense a shortness of breath or shallow breath while a patient is asleep. Once a pause in breathing is detected, the sensor triggers the stimulator, forcing the tongue forward in the mouth. This triggering action allows patients to continue breathing while asleep.

"I would recommend this procedure to anyone because there is no discomfort, the procedure was easy, the 10 days of recovery was fine and it's easy to use."

Ghatak's device was implanted in September. After waiting the required 30 days for healing, his stimulator was activated, and Dr. Mikula gave him a remote for his stimulator. Each patient with an implanted stimulator is given a hand-held remote to power on and off the stimulator. The stimulator is programmed to automatically turn off after eight hours, so the remote is usually used once a day. Patients can expect easy usage with UAS, as they are instructed to simply turn on the device before going to sleep.

"After I brush my teeth, I push the button on the stimulator remote, read for a little bit and eventually fall asleep," said Ghatak. "I'm very pleased because I'm really getting all the benefits I expected and I have more energy!"

Category : Primary care ,

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