HOUSTON – People living with disruptive sleep apnea are forced to sleep with obtrusive breathing machines to help them rest at night.
The C-PAP machines help keep airways open. Without the masks, patients can stop breathing, sometimes dozens of times throughout the night. Sleep apnea affects their physical and mental health.
“(They are) waking up and not feeling well rested, not being able to do all their daily activities because they are tired during the day," Dr. Lee Mandel said. "But other impacts are an increased rate of diabetes, high blood pressure (and) obesity around the midsection."
Marni Prater has sleep apnea but hates using the C-PAP machine so she volunteered for a study. She had a pacemaker-like device implanted just under her collarbone. The Imthera device uses neuro stimulation to keep her airways open.
“To me, it's a blessing," she said. "It’s a blessing (there are) no machines to worry about, no filters to change. I don't worry about the water level."
In a one-hour procedure, doctors implant the pacemaker. It's then attached to the nerve controlling the tongue.
“You have this little plastic wrap with LEDs at the nerve at the base of the tongue and while sleeping, it stimulates the nerve and pushes the tongue forward so it can't fall back and obstruct,” Mandel said.
It's only been a few months, but Prater said she feels different.
“I'm getting to the point that I am getting used to the machine and I have more oxygen going to my brain and body and it's given me more energy it seems,” Prater said.
Early results are promising, but the national study of the device is continuing until the end of year.
Click here to learn more about Imthera.